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Monarchs and Milkweed (3rd - 6th) | Series 8, Lesson #3

Monarchs and Milkweed

Key Topics: Metamorphosis, Symbiotic Relationships, Migration, Endangered Species, Life Cycle, Insects

Grade Level: 3rd - 6th

Click here for #8 Series Description

Science Framework

Spanish Lesson Plan

Lesson Bridge:

Connect this lesson (3) with Flower Power (2) by reminding students that last week we learned about the interdependence of pollinators and flowers. See if students can recall flower anatomy and which types of pollinators prefer which types of flowers. This week, we are going to learn about a particular (and very important) relationship between a certain plant and insect species.

Lesson Overview:  

Students will identify and observe insects and learn about their common characteristics. They will also learn about the life cycle of Monarch butterflies and the relationship between Milkweed and Monarchs. Afterwards, they will plant a monarch habitat at their school and learn about how increasing habitat helps to protect Monarch butterflies!

Learning Objectives:

Essential Question(s) that Connect CCCs and SEPs:


Metamorphosis- The process of change that some animals go through to become adults.

Symbiotic Relationships- A close relationship between two different species or kinds of organisms.

Migration- When animals move locations on a regular cycle, or at certain times of the year.

Endangered Species- A species of plant or animal that is at risk of becoming extinct (no longer existing).

Life Cycle- A series of stages a living thing goes through during its life.

Insects- A small animal whose body is divided into three parts.



Activity Procedure:


What are insects? Are butterflies insects? What kind of butterflies have you seen? Do you think butterflies live in our garden? Who can name a very special type of butterfly that is becoming endangered? (Monarch)


Pass out the Butterfly Life Stage worksheet for students to fill out along with clipboards and pencils. Walk students through the 4 stages and instruct them to label the stages on their sheets. Once everyone has filled out the worksheet, allow five minutes for students to explore the garden and see if they can locate any eggs, caterpillars, cocoons/chrysalis, and/or butterflies.


Butterflies are amazing! They live a part of their lives crawling on the ground as caterpillars and a part of their lives flying in the air, after they metamorphosis within a cocoon. They also help the flowers in our garden by pollinating them. In order to make flower seeds so that there can be flowers next year, plants need to have pollen carried to their flowers from other flowers, and this is what butterflies do when they drink nectar.  An important butterfly to learn about when living in our area is the Monarch butterfly. They are orange and black and migrate hundreds of miles every year. Using the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Document, talk through the Monarch life cycle. Do you think you’ve ever seen a Monarch Butterfly? There used to be more Monarch butterflies then there are now. The reason for this is habitat loss. When people build on an area or  make farms they often get rid of native plants in the process. There is only one type of plant that caterpillars eat, called Milkweed (share a sample or photo of Milkweed).

Milkweed is actually poisonous to most animals but Monarch caterpillars are tolerant to the poison. When they eat it, they become poisonous too and this protects them from other animals that might want to eat them! We can help protect Monarch caterpillars by planting Milkweed in our gardens to make a habitat for them. Define the remaining vocabulary words.

Action: Milkweed planting

  1. Review your Garden Agreements
  2. Divide students into groups or, if you have enough seeds or plant starts, allow each student to have their own.
  3. Demonstrate how to plant a seed or plant start in the ground.
  4. Give each group one Milkweed start or seeds and invite them to find somewhere in the garden to plant it (you can designate good locations beforehand).
  5. Explain that even though Milkweed is a native plant, it needs water to get established. Pass the watering can around to the groups and let each student take turns watering!


How does planting Milkweed in the garden help Monarch butterflies? What would happen if there was no Milkweed in the world? Who can remember the 4 life stages of a butterfly? Why are butterflies so important for our garden?

Extension Activities: