Gr 2 - Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly (Sci,ELA)

Erica Swift - Herman Leimbach Elementary School

Subject Area: Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level: 2nd Grade

Overview: Students will learn about the life cycle of a butterfly through a variety of sources (video, diagrams, books, and a video conference with a state park ranger). They will also observe the metamorphosis of live caterpillars and butterflies and document this metamorphosis through written journals, pictures, and video. As a culminating activity, they will create a film (using Movie Maker) that will serve as a documentary of the life cycle of a butterfly. It will include the pictures, videos, and writing they accumulate over the period of observation.


  • Students will be able to accurately label a diagram of the life cycle of a butterfly.
  • Students will be able to write a sequential paragraph about the life cycle of a butterfly that will serve as part of the "script" for their films.
  • Students will be able to actively participate in a discussion about butterflies with a state park ranger.
  • Students will use observations they have made as well as pictures and videos they have taken while witnessing the life cycle of a butterfly to create a movie (in Movie Maker). This movie will document the life cycle of a butterfly.


  • Show students the video Animal Life Cycles from Discovery Education Streaming.
  • Discuss the stages of the life cycle of a butterfly and instruct students on completing the Life Cycle of a Butterfly diagram by inserting text boxes to accurately label the diagram.
  • Read books about butterflies (such as the ones listed below under Materials) and discuss facts about different species of butterflies and the life cycle of all butterflies.
  • Use the graphic organizer to guide students in creating a sequential paragraph about the life cycle of a butterfly. Instruct students in using time/order words as transitions and emphasize the importance of a clearly structured paragraph that includes a topic sentence, detail sentences, and a concluding sentence.
  • When your live specimens arrive (you can order from sites such as, have students write observations about what they notice about the larva. Have them take still photographs and video of the larva. Over the 3-5 week period of metamorphosis, have students document the growth and changes that the caterpillars undergo through photographs, video, and written observations.
  • Once the larva have completed all stages of metamorphosis and have become adult butterflies, instruct students on how to import into Movie Maker the still photographs and videos they took as part of their documentation. Instruct them on sequencing their photos and videos to accurately demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly.
  • Have students work together to use their written observations and sequential paragraphs to create a script for their documentaries.
  • Instruct the students on narrating the timeline for their movies and edit the movie to include a title, transitions, effects (if appropriate), and credits.


  • 6-12 butterfly larva (caterpillars), food, and butterfly habitat (All can be purchased at
  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Digital Camera/Video camera
  • Computer with Power Point
  • Movie maker software (Movie Maker 2, iMovie)

Lesson Resources:

Lesson Extension: Take your students on a virtual field trip via a videoconference with California State Parks PORTS program. The PORTS Monarch Butterfly program is a perfect extension of the above lesson. The opportunity for students to interact with a park ranger, who is an expert on the monarch butterfly AND loves to connect with students and answer questions AND honor student expertise is a powerful learning experience for young scientists!

Student Products:



  • Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology
  • Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information .
  • Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations

Common Core Standards:

  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.
  • With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
  • Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).
  • Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.
  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

California State Standards :

  • English Language Arts:
    • Writing Strategies: Students write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea.
  • Science:
    • Life Science: Students know the sequential stages of life cycles are different for different ani­mals, such as butterflies, frogs, and mice.