Butterflies, those colorful winged wonders that catch our eyes and capture our imaginations, are more than just pretty flying flowers. They are an important part of our eco-system. And they are the perfect summer science project to keep kids busy.
Start on July 4, when the North American Butterfly Association holds its official Butterfly Count across the country. To participate in the official count, you have to know how to identify the butterflies. But if you don’t, it’s an opportunity to learn how!
No matter where you live, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center can show you pictures and descriptions of the butterflies and their caterpillars that populate your state. Click on the site’s “biological resources,” then “insects/invertebrates” and scroll down to “butterflies of North America.” For a simpler butterfly guide, wing your way to Butterflies.com, which highlights the most popular butterflies for six different U.S. regions.
To attract butterflies to your own back yard, plant a butterfly garden. EnchantedLearning.com provides information on how to create a garden with butterflies in mind. Butterflies are attracted to certain plants, such as sunflowers, zinnias and purple coneflowers, but this site offers tips on plants that attract specific species.
Most kids (and some parents) don’t realize that butterflies, as beautiful as they are, are insects! The Beal Early Childhood Education Center in Shrewsbury, Mass. has a site that details a butterfly’s anatomy and life cycle in a way that even kindergarteners can enjoy. Click on “Beal Links,” then “Butterfly Study.”
To learn more about butterflies with a variety of worksheets and crafts – including coloring pages, word games, puzzles and crafts – check out BillyBear4Kids.com, EnchantedLearning.com and PrimaryGames.com.
Happy butterfly counting!
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