Life Cycle

K, 1, 2

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the learners to the concept of Environmental Stewardship, community and how making an area beautiful is an act of philanthropy.  Learners will look at the Monarch Butterfly and the four stages of its life cycle. They will also discover that it is dependent on the milkweed plant as a source of energy.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • understand the concept of stewardship of the land.
  • understand that making an area more beautiful is an act of philanthropy.
  • recognize a milkweed plant as the source of energy for the Monarch caterpillar.
  • develop an understanding of the four stages of the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.
  • draw and label the four stages of the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.
  • understand the concept of stewardship of the land.
  • Milkweed plant(s) These can be obtained by searching fields and roadsides, or by ordering the complete Monarch Life Cycle kit from or you may purchase seeds for milkweed plants from
  • Monarch Larvae (caterpillars) These can be obtained by searching formilkweed plants during late August or by ordering the complete Monarch Life Cycle kit from or
  • Book: Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons
  • Book: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Magnifying glass for each learner or group of learners
  • Gibbons, Gail. Monarch Butterfly. Holiday House; (1991). ISBN: 0823409090
  • Clooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius. Puffin; (1985). ISBN: 0140505393
  • Berger, Melvin. A Butterfly is Born. Newbridge Educational Publishing; Big Book edition (1993). ISBN: 1567840124
  • Facklam, Margery. Creepy, Crawly Caterpillars. New York, Little, Brown and Company (1999). ISBN: 0316273422
  • Florian, Douglas. Discovering Butterflies. New York: Scribner Book Company (1986). ISBN: 0684184397
  • French, Vivian. Caterpillar, Caterpillar. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press (1993). ISBN: 1564024938
  • Hamilton, Kersten . The Butterfly Book: A Kid's Guide to Attracting, Raising, and Keeping Butterflies, Avalon Travel Publishing (1997).  ISBN: 156261309X
  • Heiligman, Deborah. From Caterpillar to Butterfly. New York: HarperTrophy. (1996). ISBN: 0064451291
  • Lockwood, Judy. The Monarch Butterfly. Minnesota: Crestwood House. (1988). ISBN: 0896863891
  • Sabin, Louis. Amazing World of Butterflies and Moths. New York: Troll Communications (1997). (1982) ISBN: 0893755613
  • Making the World a More Beautiful Place. /units/how-about-hand/making-world-more-beautiful-place


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask learners if they can think of anything they can do that would make their school, home, or community a more beautiful place. Write down the learners’ ideas and save them. Then tell the learners you are going to read a story about a woman who made the world a more beautiful place.

  2. Read to the class the story, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Clooney.

  3. Discuss the story. Ask the students why Miss Rumphius planted the flowers. Ask them if they think she is a philanthropist. (If students have not had lessons on philanthropy you will want to introduce this term. A philanthropist gives of his/her time, talent, and/or treasures for the common good.) Discuss how Miss Rumphius was working alone, but as a member of a community. What community job did she hold? How did she help people? When she traveled, did she become part of other communities?

  4. Tell them that by working to make an area attractive, an act of philanthropy is being demonstrated.

  5. Explain that flowers not only make the world attractive, but the flowers also serve as an energy source for insects.

  6. Show the students a milkweed plant with a caterpillar(s) (larvae) on it. (See Materials list for how to obtain these.) Note: Milkweed comes in several varieties depending on where you live. The type shown in the book is grown in the Mid-West and Eastern United States. Some varieties can be toxic especially the milky sap from the stems. Those learners handling the plant should wash their hands afterward. Naturalists observed in the early 1800 that birds avoided eating monarch butterflies. Milkweed contains a toxin that made the birds sick so the birds learned to avoid eating them. It is best to have enough plants and larvae for the learners to work in small groups for closer examination of the plants. Ask learners what they think they will be studying. Allow time for responses and them share that they will be studying the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

  7. Give each child a magnifying glass to use to look more closely at the milkweed plant and the larvae (caterpillar).

  8. Read aloud: Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons. While you are reading, stop to discuss each of the four stages of the life cycle. Point out the color of the larvae, the adult butterfly and the milkweed.

  9. Review with the learners the four stages of the Monarch’s (and other butterflies) life cycle: (1) egg; (2) larva (caterpillar), (3) pupa (chrysalis), (4) adult butterfly. Either show them the photos in the book, illustrate the life cycle on chart paper, or show them a poster (This can be obtained at; a video of the life cycle of a monarch can be seen here:


Assessment will be based on teacher’s observation of the students’ ability to show the four stages of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.