Butterfly Season!

Fall is “but­ter­fly sea­son” for us who live on the Cal­i­for­nia Cen­tral Coast! This is the time when over 100,000 Monarch but­ter­flies migrate to our State Monarch Pre­serve from the val­ley regions west of the Rock­ies, mak­ing their tem­po­rary home here until spring. On sunny, warm days, they fly out of the euca­lyp­tus trees where they clus­ter, to the delight of onlook­ers.… it is quite a sight to behold! Our Kinder­garten classes take a field trip to see these mag­nif­i­cent Mon­archs each fall, so we decided to paint our own beau­ti­ful but­ter­flies in honor of this spe­cial event!

Although our focus is on learn­ing about Mon­archs, I like to give Kinders the free­dom to cre­ate either a Monarch or a col­or­ful but­ter­fly of their own design (most choose the lat­ter). I put up lots of visual ref­er­ences for inspi­ra­tion, point­ing out the sym­me­try of both color and shape in each butterfly.

1. First, fold a 9x12 paper in half (I use heavy weight con­struc­tion paper) and place it with the fold on the right. (If you’re teach­ing a large group, it helps to be con­sis­tent with your own demo and sam­ple, and the ori­en­ta­tion of the paper the stu­dents have in front of them.… so choose which side the fold will be on and keep it con­sis­tent!) Explain that you will be draw­ing half of a but­ter­fly on the fold, in order to make it “sym­met­ri­cal”, or “the same on both sides”.

2. With a black oil pas­tel, make a small half cir­cle, about half way down on the fold. This will be the butterfly’s head. Be sure to press hard to make it nice and dark.

3. Next, draw half of the body below the head.

4. Now add the wings by draw­ing a diag­o­nal line from where the head meets the body, up to the cor­ner, then a ver­ti­cal line most of the way down the side and a hor­i­zon­tal line straight back across to the body. Add a curved line from any point on your hor­i­zon­tal line down to the lower cor­ner and curv­ing back up to the body. (This may sound like a lot for K’s, but if you explain it as they watch you do it, it will make sense to them!)

5. Then add a design with just a few sim­ple shapes on the wings. Don’t for­get to add an antenna!

6. Next, open up your paper and fold it back over on top of your draw­ing and rub really hard with your hand or the back of a spoon. Your design will mag­i­cally appear on the other side!

7. Your trans­ferred design will be very faint, so now go back over it with your oil pas­tel , press­ing hard to make your lines dark.

8. Finally, paint your but­ter­fly with water­col­ors. Decide if your but­ter­fly will be in the grass or the sky and make sure you use col­ors that will make your but­ter­fly stand out from its back­ground! Remem­ber to keep your col­ors sym­met­ri­cal from wing to wing and use enough water so that your col­ors look trans­par­ent.


The most chal­leng­ing part of this les­son is get­ting stu­dents to draw on the fold. I’ve even tried tap­ing the paper down so they can’t turn it! (If they draw on the loose edge instead of the fold, they will end up with two halves of a but­ter­fly instead of one whole one!) I’ve also tried hav­ing the paper open when they draw their half but­ter­fly, but most of them got so excited about their draw­ing that they kept going and drew both sides — which then made it not sym­met­ri­cal! Your best bet will be to have a small ratio of adults to chil­dren (yay! for par­ent vol­un­teers) and lots of extra paper, just in case!!


I always love how given the same set of instruc­tions, each but­ter­fly comes out dif­fer­ent and unique.… the mark of a good art lesson!!

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One Response to Butterfly Season!

  1. Char November 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I have done this project with kinders, but I usu­ally save it for later it the year. They turned out amaz­ing last year.

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