Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Planting a Monarch Butterfly Garden
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson will culminate with the learners raising money in order to buy milkweed plants or seeds to plant in a Monarch Butterfly garden. They will appreciate that caring for the environment and the plants and animals is good stewardship of the earth and the civic responsibility of everyone.


One Forty-Five Minute Class Periods with other time spent planting.


The learner will:

  • demonstrate philanthropy by working to raise money to purchase milkweed plants.
  • understand that the Monarch Butterfly migrates to a warmer climate during the winter months.
  • understand that the Monarch caterpillar is dependent on the milkweed plant for its energy and that the Monarch Butterfly needs the nectar of a variety of flowers to store energy for it’s migration.
  • take home a letter to explain to the families the need for Monarch gardens.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

The students will work to raise money so that they can purchase milkweed plants. They will also ask their parents to help them plant milkweed near their own home.


  • Book: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Clooney
  • Classroom set of letter to families (See Attachment One: Lesson Three: Letter to families)
  • Milkweed plants for students who have permission to plant the milkweed at home.
Handout 1
Letter to Families

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Show the learners the caterpillar on the milkweed plant. Ask: Why hasn’t the caterpillar left the plant? (It‘s eating the plant. It won’t leave until it is ready to develop into a chrysalis) Note: Be sure to keep the plant in a net covered area or somehow enclosed because when the caterpillar is ready to form the chrysalis it will leave to find a higher, protected spot.

  • Re read to the class the story, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Clooney.
  • Ask the learners to recall why Miss Rumphius planted the flowers.
  • Tell the learners that Monarch butterflies need our help. Explain to the students that the remaining milkweed habitats - pastures, hayfields, edges of forests, grasslands, native prairies, and urban areas - are not sufficient to sustain the large Monarch populations. To offset the loss of milkweed plants and nectar sources due to development, use of herbicides, and roadside management practices, we need to create, conserve, and protect milkweed/monarch habitats. Monarchs need places to lay their eggs and gain energy for their long migration.  (Go to http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sm/aboutmbsf.html to learn more about their migration.)  Monarchs in different areas migrate to different locations.  Those East of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Mexico. This is a long journey for such a small creature.  We can help Monarchs by creating Monarch gardens near our homes, schools, parks, zoos, nature centers, field margins, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. This effort won’t replace the amount of milkweed that has been lost or even keep pace with the habitat losses each year; however, without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels.
  • Ask the learners if they would like to be like Miss Rumphius by planting seeds and at the same time helping the Monarch Butterfly.  Explain that they are going to be asked to take a letter home to their parents. The letter asks their parents to plant milkweed near their homes in order to provide a home for the Monarch’s egg/larvae.  Let them know that by educating their parents and others about monarchs and the need to provide habitats for wildlife they will help raise the public's awareness of important conservation issues. They will also be performing an act of philanthropy.
  • Ask: What it means to be a philanthropist?  Ask volunteers to explain. Tell them that they will need to explain to their parents that they are acting as a philanthropist for the common good.
  • Explain to the class that they are going to raise money in order to purchase milkweed plants. Teacher Note: If you plan a year in advance, you can collect the seeds of the milkweed in the fall and then plant it in the spring.  These plants can be given to families.  For information on how to do this or to order milkweed plants see: http://www.monarchwatch.org/
  • Ask students for ideas as to how to raise the money to purchase the milkweed plants.  Remind learners that true philanthropists give of their time, talents, and/or treasures.
  • Create a list of their ideas, and then discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each.   Have the learners vote on which activity they would like to do. Work to develop a plan for the fundraiser.  Teacher input and guidance is vital here.


Assessment is through teacher observation of students during class discussion.

School/Home Connection:

  • Interactive Parent / Student Homework:
    (See Attachment One, Lesson Three:  Letter to Families)

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Mary Petro
Albion Public Schools
Harrington Elementary
Albion, Michigan


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Letter to Families

Dear Families:

 We have been learning about the Monarch Butterfly in class.  We have learned that the Monarch Butterfly is in danger of becoming extinct.  The Monarch Butterfly lays its eggs only on the milkweed plant because the caterpillar (larvae) of the monarch butterfly eats only milkweed leaves. Milkweed used to grow wild in our area, but because of development, the use of herbicides, and other harsh chemicals, the amount of milkweed is diminishing. In order for the Monarch Butterfly to continue to live in our area of the country, we need to make sure there are enough milkweed plants to support them. Our class would like to plant milkweed plants near our homes.  We need your help to do this.  Your child will bring home a milkweed plant if you agree to plant it.  The plants need plenty of sun and very little care.  They may need some watering the first couple of weeks after planting.  Other than that, just watch them grow and watch for the Monarch caterpillar, which is smooth-skinned, yellow, black and white striped.  Thank you for your help in Saving the Monarch Butterfly.




Yes, I would be glad to plant a milkweed plant near my home. 



Philanthropy Framework:


Mary J, Teacher Eddyville, IA8/6/2007 8:28:04 PM

I was so happy to find this lesson plan. I was able to adapt it to fourth grade level. It contained so much information and in a timely manner. You did a great job!!! I am co-chair for the Eddyville, Iowa Historical Museum (Education Committee). We are presenting Historical lessons about our area each year to 4th, 5th and 6th grades. This lesson will be incorporated with a lesson on the "Sand Dunes" here. The milkweeds used to be prolific here, but are on the border of extinction which affects the M. butterfly. Thank you so much.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Saving the Monarch Summary


Life Cycle
Review of Life Cycle
Planting a Monarch Butterfly Garden

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