The best memories are the times we share. So I developed these activities for children to enjoy while reading my book, Butterfly Tree (Peachtree Publishers, 2011).
First, the heart of this book is about making a memory—taking time to do something together you can remember sharing forever. Talk about and then write about a special time you remember sharing with someone.
*Where and when did it happen?
*What was the key moment of that shared time?
Of course, there are also places we’d like to go and things we’d like to do to make memories. Talk about and then write about something you’d like to share doing together.
Now, explore the special memory Jilly and her mother share in Butterfly Tree.
When Jilly first spots something strange in the sky out over Lake Erie, what does she think it looks like? Read and discover.
Describing what something looks like by comparing it to something else is called a metaphor. Basically, something unfamiliar is described by telling how it’s like something familiar. A metaphor can be a powerful way to use words to paint a picture in someone’s mind. Try it.
Sit quietly for a few minutes either indoors or outside. Look around. Pick out something to focus on. Then think how you could describe what it looks like to someone who’s never seen it by comparing it to something else--something familiar.
Next, share your metaphor. Ask the person to describe the visual image your words painted in their mind. Trade metaphors back and forth to work together building a description.
Here are some places and times you could use metaphors to partner building a description others can enjoy too.
*A stormy day
*An animal in action: a bird taking flight; a squirrel in a tree; a cat playing
When Jilly first sees the orange cloud in the sky, she makes lots of guesses of what it might be. Each of those guesses probably instantly made Jilly think of a different possibility for where the cloud came from and why it’s over Lake Erie. What did Jilly imagine the cloud might be? Read and discover.
Spend some time cloud watching with someone. Look out a window or go outside on a wonderfully cloudy day. Focus on one cloud that looks like an animal, an object, or something totally magical. Tell a short story about that cloud and what you imagined about it.
Then write your cloud story. Be sure to include at least one metaphor to help your reader see what you’re describing.
Jilly’s ready to run away because of the orange cloud she’s spotted, but her Mom suggests they go searching for where the cloud landed.
What orange things do Jilly and her Mom discover in the woods before they find the orange cloud? Read and discover.
What happens to reveal what the orange cloud really is? Don't miss reading to find out!
Mom says she remembers seeing the butterflies when she was a girl. Why do you think she didn’t just tell Jilly what the orange cloud was?
Now, discover more about monarch butterflies.
The Circle of Life
Look at these images of the stages of a monarch butterfly’s life cycle.
The female lays her eggs on the leaves of milkweed plants. Caterpillars hatch out in about four days.
Caterpillars eat their egg case and keep on eating. They eat the milkweed leaves they’re on. They eat nearly twenty-four hours a day for about two weeks.
The caterpillar spins a silk pad on the under side of a leaf. It grips this with tiny legs, called prolegs. It hangs in a J-shape and molts. This way it sheds its exoskeleton, or outer covering.
That hardens to form a chrysalis, a protective case. Inside the chrysalis, digestive juices break down a lot of the caterpillar’s old body. Using energy from stored up fats, a new body grows from the old one bit by bit.
After about two weeks, an adult monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. It takes several hours for its wings to fully inflate and harden. Then it flies off to feed on nectar, the sweet liquid produced by flowers. It lives from two to eight weeks. During this time, the males and females mate. Then the females lay their eggs, starting the cycle over again.
Experience what happens when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Cut out and color an adult monarch.
Then fold this up small and push it inside a balloon.
Have an adult partner blow up a balloon just enough to partly inflate it. Tie the neck to seal the balloon.
Cover the balloon with paper mache. To do this, first snip newspaper into strips about an inch (2.5 cm) wide and 6 inches (25 cm) long. Cut at least 25 strips. In a bowl, mix one-half cup flour with enough water to make a runny paste. Dip one paper strp into the glue mixture. Hold the strip over the bowl and slide between your thumb and fingers to remove excess paste. Smooth the strip onto the balloon. Repeat until the whole balloon is covered up to the neck. Smooth your fingers over the wet balloon. This will help seal the edges of the paper strips. Set the balloon in a clean, dry bowl. Turn frequently for a few hours to help it dry evenly. Leave overnight.
The balloon now represents the chrysalis inside which the caterpillar is changing into an adult butterfly. Use scissors to carefully snip into the balloon just below the neck. That will pop the balloon. It will deflate and separate from the inside of the paper mache. Carefully pull out the balloon. Open it and pull out the folded up adult. Unfold the adult slowly.
In real life, the adult butterfly’s body gives off a special chemical that helps break open the chrysalis. Then the adult crawls out and hangs upside down from its chrysalis. Its abdomen squeezes over and over, pumping fluid into the wings. The big wings slowly unfold. The butterfly flaps these wings while they dry and become strong. Then it’s ready to fly.
Now, go on an on-line scavenger hunt to track down the answers to these questions.
How can you help monarch butterflies?
Why is a viceroy butterfly colored to mimic a monarch butterfly?
Also, don’t miss the fun, interactive jigsaw puzzles on this site.
Where do monarch butterflies go to escape cold winters?
Watch the slide show at The Magic of Monarch Butterfly Migration
Also find out what is the longest any monarch butterfly has flown to date during its migration?
Wonder how monarch know where they’re going when they migrate?
Journey North’s Monarch Butterfly Migration Tracking Project reports
“This is a question that scientists are still working to answer. People working at the University of Kansas with Chip Taylor have shown that they use the sun, and also probably the earth’s magnetic field to know which way is south during the fall migration. But we don’t know how they find the specific spots in Mexico. Personally, I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to answer this one—which I think is kind of nice. I like mysteries!”
If you like science mysteries too, after you finish reading Butterfly Tree you'll enjoy another of my books The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery (Millbrook, 2011). It’s the story of a real-life science mystery. Solving it meant the difference between life and death for Panama’s tiny golden frogs.