Teacher Lesson Plans

Butterfly Lesson 2 - Caterpillar

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Teacher Lesson Plans
"Life Cycle of a Butterfly" Unit - Four Lessons


Lesson 2 - Monarch Caterpillar

Grade Level

Elementary Lesson Plans, Grades K-3

Concept/Topic Overview

Students learn about the Butterfly Stages of the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.

Science Standards Addressed

  • Kindergarten Lesson Plans - LIFE SCIENCE - Organisms - Living and non-living things, compare and contrast, simple groups for living things.
  • First Grade Lesson Plans - LIFE SCIENCE - Organisms - Observe and describe life cycles (how things grow and change).
  • 2nd Grade Lesson Plans - LIFE SCIENCE - Organisms - Recognize and describe life cycles.
  • 3rd Grade Lesson Plans - LIFE SCIENCE - Organisms - Recognize and describe structures of living thing that serve specific purpose in growth, survival and reproduction.
Above are the basic science standards addressed in these Teacher Lesson Plans. More science, math and art standards could also be covered in this Unit.

Objectives - Butterfly Lesson Plans

  • Learn signs that the caterpillar will be hatching soon.
  • Explore what happens as the caterpillar outgrows its skin, how many times this happens, and how long it takes until the next stage, chrysalis.
  • Discover what the caterpillar does when it is ready to begin the chrysalis stage.

Anticipatory Set - Teacher Lesson Plans

  • Read Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Ask the students about Stage 1 of the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle and review what they learned about the Monarch egg.


  • Butterfly photos of the Monarch life cycle stages
  • www.glorious-butterfly.com
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Monarch Butterfly by Edana Eckart
  • The Life Cycle of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards - Excellent book with over 400 beautiful photographs!

Materials - Teacher Lesson Plans

  • Construction Paper, markers, crayons, scissors, Virtual Butterfly Project

Introduction - Elementary Science Lesson Plans

We will be learning about the second of the Monarch Butterfly Stages - the Monarch Caterpillar.


  • What happens to the "egg shell" after the Monarch Caterpillar hatches?
    • The caterpillar eats it!
  • How big is the newly hatched caterpillar?
    • About as big as this comma , Note: Sometimes it is so tiny you can hardly see it and instead you first notice little "scratches" on the Milkweed leaf where they have eaten.
  • What happens as the caterpillar grows and gets too big for its skin?
    • It sheds its skin or "molts".
  • How many times does the Monarch Caterpillar molt?
    • About five times - depends on weather.
  • What happens to the old skin?
    • The caterpillar eats it!
  • How much food does a Monarch caterpillar eat?
    • Many Milkweed leaves...a medium size Tropical Milkweed plant (about 7-10 leaves).
  • How long does it take for the caterpillar to become "full grown" and ready to become a chrysalis (pupate)?
    • 9 - 14 days
  • Why would it take only 9 days sometimes and 14 days other times?
    • Warmer weather makes it faster
  • How big does the Monarch caterpillar get?
    • 1" - 1 3/4" or 25 to 45mm
  • What happens when it is time for the caterpillar to prepare to become a chrysalis?
    • The caterpillar wanders far from the plant and finds a protected place to attach and start the process of becoming a chrysalis (Pupation)

Activities - Teacher Lesson Plans

    • Have the students draw a picture of something they learned about the second stage of the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle. Have them share with the class what their picture represents.

    • Use a ruler to put a line on the board representing the length of a full grown Monarch Caterpillar. Compare that to a comma , which is about the size of a newly hatched caterpillar. Older students could figure out about how much the caterpillar grows per day.
    • Update the time line on the blackboard showing the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle through the caterpillar stage.

    Virtual Butterfly
    • Have the students add to their “Virtual Butterfly” by representing the caterpillar on the work that they started last week with the Monarch egg. It takes about a month for an egg to turn into a caterpillar. Teach the four lessons over the month, correlating with this timetable.


  • Review Monarch Caterpillar stage and tell them that in next week's lesson they will be learning about the Monarch Chrysalis.

Assessment of Learning

  • Informally assess the the student's progress through the input they share during the lesson and observations of their Art, Math and Virtual Butterfly project.

I hope these Free Lesson Plans are helpful in getting your students excited about science, nature, and the beautiful Monarch Butterfly.

Check out Kindergarten, Bulletin Board and Preschool pages for other classroom ideas.

Make sure and give the parents of your students a link to this website so they can share the wonderful experience of Raising Butterflies with their kids at home this summer.

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