Creating a Butterfly Garden

Ms. Maggi Rohde, 4th Grade

Purpose: Students will learn the features of the habitat of butterflies in southeastern Michigan.

Curriculum Benchmarks (Elementary):

  • Constructing 1:5 -- Students will develop strategies and skills for information gathering and problem solving.

    Reflecting 1:4 -- Students will develop an awareness of and sensitivity to the natural world.

    Using 3:4 (Organization of Living Things) -- Students will compare and contrast food, energy, and environmental needs of selected organisms.

    Using 5:4 (Ecosystems) -- Students will design systems that encourage growing of particular plants or animals.

  • Anticipatory Set:

    Read "Waiting for Wings" by Lois Ehlert to the class. Point outside the window of the classroom, and say, "Wouldn’t it be great if we could look out our window and see butterflies? Maybe we can -- let’s plan a butterfly garden!" (Begin the Power Point presentation here.)

    Slide One (opening):

    Say, "When scientists are starting a new project, they need to figure out what questions they’re going to ask. What questions do you think would be important before we begin creating our butterfly habitat?" (click) "I think a good first question would be: who’s going to live in our butterfly garden? (click) Then we can find out what plants they like to eat (click) and what plants they lay their eggs on."  

    Slide Two:

    (click) Say, "The first thing we need to do is find out what butterflies live around here. When an animal lives in a particular area, we call that a native species. Some species of butterflies that are native to southeastern Michigan include (click) the Monarch, (click) the Pearl Crescent, (click) the

    Black Swallowtail, (click) the Cabbage White, (click) the

    Spring Azure (click) and the Tiger Swallowtail. Why do you think they might have those names?"

    Slide Three:

    (click) Say, "Now we have some idea which butterflies might come visit our garden. I learned from the North American Butterfly Association what kind of food those species of butterfly like to eat. Butterflies don’t eat the plant; they actually drink special fluid inside flowers called nectar. (click) Monarchs and Cabbage Whites love to eat the nectar from the flowers of the Butterfly Bush (click) and the Mexican Sunflower. (click) Black Swallowtails like the nectar of Zinnias (click) Both Monarchs and Black Swallowtails like Zinnias (click), Purple Coneflowers (click) and milkweed, and Monarchs also like the nectar of Cosmos. Look at all the different colors -- butterflies love bright plants and good-smelling flowers."

    Slide Four:

    (click) Say, "Butterflies don’t only use plants for food. They also lay their eggs on plants. Why do you think they do that?" (so the larvae have food when they hatch)

    (click) "The Monarch butterfly likes to eat the same kind of food that its larvae do -- the milkweed plant. Unfortunately, the milkweed plant is endangered. If we plant milkweed, that’ll be especially good because it will give the Monarch butterflies a place to lay their eggs." (click) "Tiger swallowtails lay their eggs on Tulip Trees, (click) Pearl Crescents like Wild Asters, (click) and Cabbage Whites like leafy greens like Broccoli."

    Slide Five:

    (click) Say, "Now let’s think about the location of our garden. (click) We have to make sure the place we plant our garden will be sunny. Why do you think that is?" (butterflies are cold-blooded) (click) "Butterflies are very delicate, so we also have to make sure it’s protected from the wind. (click) And we have to make sure the soil is rich, so our plants will grow well. After lunch, we’ll go outside and look at our school yard to find a sunny, calm place to plant our garden." 

    Slide Six:

    (click) Say, "There are a few other things we want to make sure our garden has. (click) We’ll want to put in some bowls of sand with water. Why would we want that?" (butterflies need to drink) (click) "We also want some big, flat rocks for them to sun themselves on. (click) And we’ll want to put the big plants on the sides and the small plants in the front, so everyone can see our beautiful garden!"

    Slide Seven (closing):

    (click) Say, "So what do we do next? (click) First, you’re going to choose a Butterfly Buddy to be your partner for this project. Don’t move yet -- we’ll choose our Buddies after lunch. (click) Next, you and your Buddy decide which butterfly you want to study. I have a sign-up sheet up here, with pictures of each butterfly native to our area. (click) Then you and your Buddy will do some research into the habitat, food and any special needs your butterfly species has. (click) Finally, we’ll all share our research with the class. Does anyone have any questions?" 

    Sources &endash; Information:

    "Foremost’s Butterflies Are Blooming!" Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI.

    Pearson, Chuck. "Southeast Michigan (Detroit Area)," 1999. North American Butterfly Association, Morristown, NJ.

    Bambara, S. and J. Baker. "Planting A Butterfly Garden," 1995. 4-H Entomology, North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

    "Science Content Standards," April 2000. Michigan Department of Education.

    Sources &endash; Pictures:

    Most butterfly pictures: "The Butterfly Guide," 1995. The Butterfly Zone.

    Child with butterfly on finger: "Children’s Butterfly Site." Midcontinent Ecological Science Center, US Department of the Interior.

    Opler, Paul A., Harry Pavulaan, and Ray E. Stanford (coordinators), 1995. "Butterflies of North America." Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page:

    Carter, J. Stein, 1995. "Organisms Seen on Clermont College Campus."

    Cabbage White: Walsh, Bruce. "Butterflies of Northern Mexico and Sonora."

    Buttefly Bush: Simpson, Deb. "Butterfly Bush."

    Mexican sunflower: Richard, Golden. "Gardening."

    Zinnia: Simpson, David. "Free Plant and Flower Pictures."

    Cosmos: Graper, David. "Outdoor Plants Covered Fall 2000."