I always imagined the transformation of caterpillars to butterflies would be beautiful and magical.
I should have realized that something in creation that points us toward regeneration would be much messier than I anticipated.
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar prepared me for all the eating, but it did not prepare me for all the poop, nor did I realize that freshly emerged butterflies would splatter red goo (technical name meconium) everywhere inside and somehow outside their habitat.
But isn’t that a lesson all in itself? If our nature study comes from books alone, we will come away with a rather sanitized view of the world.
Hands-on learning is messier, but it teaches us a whole lot more.
And I’m a lot like those (frankly disgusting) caterpillars wallowing in their own filth than an adorable fuzzy little creature in a picture book.
But when the butterflies left the habitat and flew through our yard as the flowers bloomed behind them? It truly was a beautiful moment.
It reminded me of this song from my childhood: “Bullfrogs and butterflies, they’ve both been born again.” What a joy to know God transformed a creepy caterpillar like me and gave me a new heart to praise and love Him!
We used the Butterfly Unit Study kit from Sonlight for our study, but had to purchase our own caterpillars.
What’s Included in the Sonlight Butterfly Unit Study
- Instructor’s Guide (with worksheet pages)
- Living Books
- Supply Kit (*note: does NOT include a code for caterpillars; those have to be ordered independently)
The Instructor’s Guide lays out 4 weeks of reading, hands-on projects, and activity worksheet pages. I noticed several suggestions for supplemental activities for your older students, which would be perfect if you wanted to have the whole family participate in this butterfly unit study. It would be easy to customize for all ages.
Three picture books are included in the Sonlight Butterfly Unit Study: Caterpillars and Butterflies (an easy-reader, non-fiction introduction), Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly (in which first grader Velma metaphorically metamorphizes), and Butterflies for Kiri (which inspired us to make our own origami butterflies).
The Sonlight Butterfly Unit Study supply kit includes the following items:
- Lapbook file folder
- Index cards
- Wooden clothespin
- Pipe cleaner
- Assorted colorful pompoms
- Wiggle eyes
- Pop-up Mesh Hamper. This unit study does not contain caterpillars. You have to purchase those separately from an independent retailer. I will add that the pop-up mesh hamper is not really great. You have to cover it with tulle, fabric, or cheesecloth and secure the opening with clothespins or clips. If I do this again, I would probably want a better-quality butterfly habitat.
- Coffee filters
- Origami papers
- Craft glue
- Black twine
- Sheet of bubble wrap
- Craft sticks
- Colored tissue paper
One of the things I most appreciate about Sonlight boxed kits is their open-and-go nature. It’s great to have all the craft supplies in one place. I do wish the included butterfly habitat was better. We had to support ours inside a tray and find additional materials to cover the opening.
When is the best time for a butterfly unit study?
I will also note that if you want to release your butterflies outside, daytime temperatures need to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime temperatures also affect the viability of caterpillars when they ship. So keep that in mind when planning and ordering materials.
You will also want to make sure you order caterpillars native to your region. The websites for the various caterpillar suppliers include that information.
Our sources gave us a timeline for when to expect the caterpillars to form chrysalides and emerge as butterflies, but our timing was much longer than they predicted. I would encourage you to order the caterpillars before you start the unit study so you aren’t too delayed.
Click here to get your own Butterfly Unit Study.