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 9×12 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!!