GIF of paper craft caterpillar transforming into colorful butterfly
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Flutter over to this colorful collection of butterfly-themed activities, perfect for Lepidoptera lovers ages 4-8.

Fragile yet fearless, pint-sized yet widespread, butterflies are marvels of nature, transforming from lowly caterpillars into majestic beauties through the mysterious process of metamorphosis. Take flight with these winged wonders through a variety of videos, crafts, and interactive programs.

Please note: While Science @ Home activities are designed to be conducted by kids, some little ones might need adult help with reading instructions and preparing crafts.

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Orange heliconia butterflies hang upside down after hatching from chrysalis

Day 1: Winging it

Butterflies are world travelers! Tag along with these surprisingly spunky insects on a tour of their life cycle spanning thousands of miles. (45-60 minutes)

 

Butterfly Am I (video)
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Calling all caterpillars! Do you have what it takes to become a butterfly? Spread your wings for this interactive program that will help you master the skills needed to be successful as a monarch butterfly—including how to survive an epic 3,000-mile migration.

A bola full of butterflies (video)
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Academy docent Bev welcomes you to the bolaour 4-story rainforest exhibit—and introduces you to some of the hundreds of free-flying tropical butterflies and moths inside.

Dazzling hatchlings (video)
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In this video, biologist Tim takes you on a tour of the rainforest’s butterfly emergence chamber, where butterflies hatch from their chrysalises and unfurl their wings for the very first time. 

While you watch this video, think about the four questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  • What do you think Tim, the biologist in the video, means by emergence?
  • Butterfly and moth pupae come in many different colors and sizes. Why do you think that is?
  • Butterflies are important for the environment around them. What are some of the things they do for plants?
  • How can you help protect rainforests?

 

Magical metamorphosis (craft)
Felt scissors and glue

Transform one piece of paper into two butterfly life stages in this cute, clever craft.

Listen to instructions

Close-up of yellow and black butterfly with furled proboscis

Day 2: I spy butterflies

More than just eye candy, butterflies’ beauty serves a vital purpose. Explore how these insects evolved to protect themselves from danger. (30-60 minutes)

Butterfly camouflage (video)
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Butterflies are easy targets for predators, which is why they’ve developed sneaky strategies like camouflage to help them blend in to their surroundings.

Butterfly mimicry (video)
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For butterflies, standing out from the crowd can be risky. By mimicking the colors of other icky-tasting butterflies, they can avoid becoming somebody’s lunch.

Color a butterfly (coloring)
Multicolored felt crayons

Print out and color this blue morpho butterfly. Notice the round patterns on its wings? Those are called eyespots, and they are used to trick predators into thinking they’re being watched.

A different kind of zoom (activity)
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Tired of Zoom calls? Zoom in on beautiful scientific specimens instead! Academy scientists used a high-tech camera called GIGAmacro to create incredible close-up photographs of insects, plants, and feathers, revealing all their teeny-tiny details.

Zoom in on the sunset moth and comet moth. What details do you notice? Use your observation skills to make some sketches and share with a friend or family member, or just admire them yourself.

View sunset moth

View comet moth

 

Beautiful yellow and black butterfly chrysalises

Day 3: What makes a butterfly an insect?

Butterflies may seem like they’re in a class by themselves, but they’re actually in the same class—Insecta—as insects! Learn more about what they all have in common. (30-60 minutes)

Butterfly aria (video)
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Sometimes nature just makes you want to sing. For Academy educator Kyle, that often means opera! Enjoy this theatrical celebration of an unusually musical monarch butterfly.

Invent an insect (activity)
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In these three activities, you’ll master the anatomy of an insec—and then activate your imagination to invent one of your own!

Listen to instructions (intro)
Listen to instructions (activity 1)
Listen to instructions (activity 2)
Listen to instructions (activity 3)

 

 

Close-up of ice cubes dyed with red and blue food coloring

Day 4: Curious about color

With their incredible spectrum of colors, butterflies navigate a treacherous world in style—and can teach us a thing or two about hue. (30-45 minutes)

The brilliant blue morpho (video)
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The blue morpho butterfly is like a flying, sparkling sapphire. Watch this short video for a glimpse of this exquisite insect.

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  • What do you notice about the butterfly in this video?
  • Have you ever seen a blue morpho butterfly before? If you have, what do you know about the bottom part of its wings? Are they blue too?
  • Do you have any idea what the green things are?
Exploring iridescence (video)
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Academy docent Annie lights up the screen as she explains the science behind the sparkle of butterflies like the blue morpho.

Iridescent ice (activity)
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This recipe’s pretty cool: Add food coloring and salt to ice cubes for a colorful demonstration of how iridescence works.

Listen to instructions

 

Rows of iridescent blue morpho butterflies in the Academy collections

Kid & caregiver extension activities

If you’ve metamorphosed into a butterfly maven, you’ll definitely want to land on these extra videos and activities.

Shimmer and shine (activity)
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With a few household ingredients, you can make an iridescent rainbow materialize before your very eyes. Be sure to ask an adult for assistance.

Listen to instructions

 

Butterfly journey (video)
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Many of the butterflies you see at the Academy start their lives in Costa Rica. Learn about how the Academy’s relationship with a sustainable butterfly producer in Costa Rica benefits nearby communities as well as native plants.

While you watch this video, think about the three questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  • Where does the butterfly journey start?
  • Have you ever thought of butterflies being raised in farms? What else is raised or grown in farms?
  • Find a paper and pencil and sketch your favorite butterfly.

Please note: This video is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Listen to guiding questions

Monarch migration (video)
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How do monarch butterflies manage to migrate to the same exact spot in Mexico, year after year? Turns out, the answer is in their antennae.

While you watch this video, think about the two questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  • Imagine what it would be like to migrate from the United States to Mexico and back every year. Do you think it would be a difficult journey?
  • What might be some of the challenges that butterflies face?

Please note: This video is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Listen to guiding questions

Butterfly genome (video)
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Academy researcher Durrell Kapan dug into butterfly DNA to unlock the secrets of butterfly mimicry.

While you watch this video, think about the two questions below. Share your answers with a friend or family member or just think in your head.

  • Why would it be helpful for two different types of butterflies to mimic, or look like, each other?
  • Can you think of any other animals that use mimicry to hide or avoid predators?

Listen to guiding questions

Academy @ Home

Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages.

Tell us what you think!
Science @ Home is always evolving. Drop us a line to let us know what you like, what you don't, and what you'd like to see more (or less!) of. Completed a craft that you're proud of? Send us a pic of that, too!