The Nature Friends program is for 4- or 5-year-old children with an adult. Maximum group size if 20 child-adult teams. Programs are outside unless weather does not permit.
Puppet Story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Modify the story to include: egg hatches in a few days, eat only milkweed for two weeks, and spends 15 days in a chrysalis.
Discussion using visuals
Pick some of the following questions for discussion based on what visual props that you have available. Discussing all of the information below would be too much for this age group.
“What did the caterpillar in the story hatch from?” An egg; a monarch’s egg is no larger than a pinhead. Show a pin or a leaf with an egg.
“What did the caterpillar turn into?” Butterfly
“What do you think monarch butterflies like to eat?” Only milkweed plants. They eat all day and night stopping occasionally to rest. Show. Within the two weeks that the caterpillars eat they gain 2,700 times their body weight. If a baby grew as fast as a caterpillar, a six pound baby would weigh eight tons in 12 days. (This part is for the parents, it is beyond the child’s cognitive ability.)
“What happens to a caterpillar’s skin when they grow?” They molt or remove their outer skin 4-5 times to accommodate for their rapid growth.
“How do you taste different foods?” With your taste buds. Butterflies can taste with their feet. Butterfly feet are 2,000 times more sensitive than human taste buds.
“Is a butterfly an insect?” Yes, it has six legs and three body parts. Use puppet to show parts.
“Why are monarchs special?” They migrate many miles to spend the winter in a warmer area. No one understands their migration abilities. Scientists are trying to learn more out about the monarchs so we can protect them and their habitats. To help scientists study butterflies, we place tags on their wings. Information gained from tagging the butterflies has allowed scientists to learn more about the stopping areas during migration and resting areas for the winter. People can now protect these special areas for the monarchs. If you have a monarch to tag, follow the monarch tagging procedures.
Craft: Coffee filter butterflies
- Ask adult to cut off the sides, but not bottom of a cone shape coffee filters. Open and lay flat. It will resemble the shape of a butterfly.
- Have children dot the filter with water-soluble markers.
- Spray colored butterfly with water bottle.
- The colors of the markers will separate as the filter gets wet.
- Let dry.
Activity: Looking for insects
- Demonstrate how to use sweep net
- Pass out sweep net and bug box to parent/child team
- Have children come back and share their discoveries
- Ask the children to return their insect friends back where they found them-remember to wave goodbye and say thank you for visiting!
Snack: Butterfly crackers
- Cut up slices of processed cheese in small shapes ahead of time.
- Give children butterfly shaped crackers, processed cheese, and raisins.
- Have children decorate their butterflies.
Dance with your coffee filter butterfly while singing.
You fly your butterfly in.
You fly your butterfly out.
You fly your butterfly in,
And you flutter all about.
You do the butterfly boogie,
And you flutter all around….
That’s what it’s all about
Caterpillar Finger Play from Nature Scope
|Ten little eggs,||Hold hands up, fingers straight|
|All in a mound.||Join hands together in a ball|
|Out come caterpillars,||Extend and wiggle fingers|
|Crawling all around.|
|Next they will sleep||Lay head to one side on hands|
|And know why.|
|Soon they’ll come out||Holds hands up, fingers straight|
|As butterflies||Wave fingers|
- This information is based on monarch butterflies.
- Female can lay up to 400 eggs. (Other information states 700 eggs.)
- Caterpillars have eight pairs of legs.
- Males have a single black dot on each hind wing.
- Monarchs that hatch in late summer are called migrant and wait to mate until spring, unlike the summer butterflies that complete a life cycle in 4-5 weeks.
- In good flying weather, they can cover up to 80 miles a day.
- If the temperature drops below 55 degrees, they cannot fly.
- Their scientific name Danaus plexippus means “milkweed butterfly.”
- First pair of legs is tucked up close to the butterfly’s body.
- The colony in El Rosario, Mexico, is estimated to have 30-40 million butterflies.
Lasky, Kathryn. Monarchs. 1993.
Ranger Rick’s NatureScope. Incredible Insects. 1984.
Activities provided by:
Polk County Conservation Board
Nature Friends is funded by Polk County Conservation Board, West Des Moines Park and Recreation, and the Des Moines Chapter of the Izaak Walton League.