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The complete metamorphosis of butterflies is the subject of this lesson





Title – Complete Metamorphosis in Butterflies
By – Deborah Lyons
Primary Subject – Science
Grade Level – 3

Note from This lesson references “page 9 in Mailbox Science Grades 1-3” (not included) and a Bible verse (included), both of which are not required to obtain benefit from this lesson. Materials:

  • Student – Journal, pencil, and page 9 in Mailbox Science Grades 1-3 (optional)
  • Teacher – The Very Hungry Caterpillar , a monarch caterpillar, lots of milkweed, a ten-gallon glass or plastic aquarium, Bible (optional)


  • The student will be able to identify pictures of complete metamorphosis correctly.
  • The student will be able to write a paragraph explaining what happens in each stage of complete metamorphosis in order.


      “What is something that changes from an ordinary thing to something that is very beautiful? Well, I am going to read you a story and it is called

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    . Have you ever wondered how a caterpillar turned into a butterfly? What happened after the caterpillar made a pupa?”


    “Today we are going to learn about complete metamorphosis in butterflies and how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.”

Sequence of Activities:

    “A butterfly starts off as an egg and is laid on a leaf. This starts the process of metamorphosis. After the egg has been there for three days, the caterpillar chews out of its shell. What do you think the caterpillar will do next? Yes, that is right. It will eat and eat and eat. It is so hungry it eats as much as it can hold. The caterpillar will then eat leaves of plants until it grows large. As the caterpillar grows larger, it will shed its skin each time it outgrows it. This is about the middle of complete metamorphosis. What do you think will happen next? That is right. It will molt one last time and form a pupa. The butterfly then stays in the pupa, which is hard, for about ten days. Then, the caterpillar emerges as a beautiful, what? Yes, butterfly. Before the butterfly can fly off, the wings must dry. This process takes about two hours. Then this cycle is repeated as the butterfly lays eggs of its own. This is the end of the complete cycle of metamorphosis.”

Experiment: Title:

      An Extraordinary Butterfly from Mailbox Science Grades 1-3

Scripture: II Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are saved, we are not the same, but God changes us. This butterfly only changes its appearance, but God completely changes us inside and out.

Information about experiment:

      The students will be able to see butterflies in every stage of metamorphosis. The students will write down what they see each day. In fact, the teacher could even try to measure the caterpillar to see how long it gets. This could last for about a month so it could be done at the beginning of a unit about butterflies, metamorphosis or something that is related


        A monarch caterpillar


        Lots of milkweed


        A ten-gallon glass or plastic aquarium


        Journals for the students to write down observations


      Set up the aquarium and let the students observe and write about what they see. Let the students do this each day until the cycle is completed.


    The excitement could wear off as the days go by. So it is important to help the students stay interested in what is happening. Review what the students have learned about each stage of complete metamorphosis.


    “Today we have learned that butterflies go through complete metamorphosis. They start as an egg and then what do they turn into? That is right. They turn into a caterpillar. What do caterpillars do? They eat and eat and eat until they are full grown caterpillars. Do they just stay caterpillars? No. They form a hard shell called a pupa and stay in there for about ten days. What happens when the ten days are up? The caterpillars turn into butterflies. The butterflies must then dry off their wings for about two hours before they can fly. The next time you see a butterfly you know how the butterfly changed from a caterpillar to a butterfly.”

Evaluation of Students:

  • The students will label pictures of the cycle of complete metamorphosis.
  • The students will then write a small paragraph describing what happens to the caterpillar in each stage of metamorphosis.

E-Mail Deborah Lyons !

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