Metamorphosis of the Butterfly

Resource Info

Basic Information

The life cycle of a butterfly is an engaging and interesting concept for children. It can also be used to touch upon the concepts of family, animals and insects.

Lesson plan Details

01 hours 30 mins

This resource on the metamorhosis of the butterfly could be used as an extended exploration as part of the Class III EVS theme (as given in the NCERT curriculum) on Family and Friends. It also touches on the themes of animals and insects,  to understand what children think of insects and familiarize them with the insect life around them. The Butterfly Life Cycle study is an idea worth exploring and engaging the child with and could also work as a basis for further explorations in class IV and V. 

  • To introduce and familiarize the learner with the basic sequence and stages of the butterfly’s growth.
  • To familiarize the metamorphosis stages with simple terminology- egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly.
  • To instill in the learner, a sense of wonder, sensitivity and documentation of what strikes one as worthy of preserving.

The resource  has three parts to it which could be covered over 3 class sessions (20-25 minutes each) and extended to a required number of hours beyond the classroom.

Session 1

The children could be read out the story of Maria Sibylla Merian. She lived more than 3 centuries ago between the time period of 1647 to 1717. She changed the way one looked at documenting in Science. As a child, she was very keen on observing and painting out all that she observed; especially flowers, moths, butterflies and caterpillars.

"I collected all the caterpillars I could find in order to study their metamorphosis, I therefore withdrew from society and devoted myself to these investigations."; Maria at the age of 13 (Maria Sibylla Merian: Why her Art changed how we see Nature”).

What was stunning about her art was that they were not fanciful imagery but accurate depiction of what was real that came from long hours of intense observation and eye squinting! Imagine that, in a time with no camera or easily accessible microscopes! The bare human eye and a will to express the seen in art! She became the eyes through which the world came to see the life around oneself in ways that had not been explored yet.  

One must definitely display to the child some of Maria’s work. The following are some examples: 

Further, given the facility for internet and projector access, one could also explore the idea of viewing the following video as a class:


The entire length of the video is about 11 minutes which might be too long an attention span (for a picture video) to expect of 7 year olds. However, parts of the video could be shown and extended/ cut short depending on the response of the children. One can never predict which moment of an otherwise simple seeming experience could inspire a young mind!

Session 2

Using one or more of Maria’s depictions of the butterfly metamorphosis cycles (one could also use other sources for pictures if the need is felt; however, use of real life pictures than stencil diagrams would excite and make the process a lot more meaningful and relatable to the child), the facilitator could briefly take the children through the four stages of metamorphosis while narrating the basic changes and functions that are characteristic of each stage. The following could be used as the underlying structure of the narration:

The life cycle of butterflies has long intrigued and amused many a common and science enthusiast alike. Butterflies, before they come to be the magnificent colourful flutter of a life that we gaze at, grow through 4 systemic stages.

The Egg: Butterflies, like many other species start of as an egg. One can find clusters of round or oval, translucent eggs on leaves. When looked at closely, one could actually see the growing organism within the egg.

The Caterpillar: The egg hatches to give life to what we know as a caterpillar. Now, the butterflies are very careful to lay their eggs on leaves that are edible to the new-born caterpillar who cannot crawl about looking for food. The caterpillar munches on the leaf it is born on and the neighbouring leaves until it grows to it’s full plump size.

The Pupa: On having grown plump and strong, the caterpillar now begins to hide and take shelter within a wall like structure called the pupa. Within this, it uses up all the energy from the many leaves to transform it’s body parts to what grows into a winged butterfly with a tiny body and antenna. This transformation is essentially what is termed as metamorphosis.

The Butterfly: Having developed the necessary tissues and organs, the fully grown butterfly emerges out of the crackling-tearing pupa in it’s full size. Within a couple of hours, it masters the art of flying and is already on the lookout for a mate to lay some eggs!

Having briefly narrated this life cycle, on could also allow the child to meddle and engage with a toy (resource 1) that depicts the changes across the four stages visually. The steps could be extrapolated to make the  first transformation from eggs to caterpillar visual as well.

Session 3

The children, by now, have a second hand knowledge of how the butterfly comes to be. Now for the child to go out there and see this process enfold for oneself! How else would the curious unsettling mind of the child believe something to be true? The facilitator could now introduce the child to the idea of Nature Journaling. This is something that could be a year long activity of which the metamorphosis theme could be one aspect. The children, basically, are encouraged to go out into their gardens, school grounds, parks, trees, any niche with life and observe the many instances of life and document it in any form meaningful to them- scribbles, drawings, words, pictures (with the help of parents/any adult with a camera). So, this theme could be the start to a way of Science that shall be continued. It is a simple three step process:

  • Find a scribble pad/ book and shine it up with colours, scribbles, paper mosaic, anything! This shall be the journal.
  • Keep a sharp eye and an ear at all times! Spot a leaf with butterfly eggs and watch it transform to the butterfly! While at it, make little snippets of the observations.
  • Keep at this nature journaling for some time to come! And share and exchange journal entries with one another.

Having completed this journaling activity, the maze (resource 2) could be printed out and given to the child as a take-home or in-class activity (whichever suits the class process). This could be a means to gauge whether or not the child has comprehended the process of butterfly metamorphosis.


A Couple of Ideas that the Facilitator could address in conversation with the children:

  • The practice of observing nature in nature rather than bringing nature into a cage for convenient observation.
  • The practice of sharing ideas and observations with one another in healthy conversation minus the attitude of who-knows-most; who-is-right; who-got-here-first.
  • The sensitivity to watch out for the magic nature has to offer; to look out for the diversity that feeds one’s curiosity.
  • Encourage further explorations; e.g. Do all butterflies grow exactly the same way; do some take longer to grow? Are the butterfly eggs always in clusters of more than one? Do all caterpillars eat similar leaves? What are the other insects that might eat up the butterfly pupa before it turns out into a butterfly? Do dragonflies go through a similar birth and growing process?  How does a frog grow into the hopping creature it is?
Personal Reflection: 

The table below is an excerpt of the prescribed NCERT syllabus for class III EVS. It is proposed that this resource be used in relation to this theme. However, the resource could also be used as part of independent Science workshops (wherein the intent might be to introduce a certain way of Science driven by inquiry); Children’s camps. 



Key Concepts / Issues

Suggested Resources

Suggested Activities


Some creepy crawlies – and flyers too

What different kinds of small crawling animals do you know? Where and from what does each of them hide? Which insects can crawl and also fly?

Which ones bite us? Can flies make us ill? Why does a spider make a web?


Exploring children’s ideas of crawling animals, flyers and insects.







Child’s daily life

experience, observation,

stories/ poems on insects, flyers and crawling animals.


Observation, of ants, flies, spiders, crickets, cockroaches, earthworms, lizards and other animals.

Discussion about them, where they live, what they eat, insect bites (wasp) etc.

Drawing some of them.


Here are some links of resources that the facilitator can use in the classroom:

 A video: How to make an Origami paper butterfly 

A story for children: Hope for Flowers
A video on what school has come to be:  Do Flowers Fly?
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