Our Butterfly Inquiry

“The children experiencing the transformation of the caterpillars to butterflies was magical. I can’t help but relate this experience to the uniqueness of teaching kindergarten and being able to learn and grow with the children. Metaphorically, they really do start out like little caterpillars that grow and grow over time and then one day, when they’re ready they spread their wings and fly.” -Wonders in Kindergarten


At its core, inquiry-based learning in kindergarten is about asking essential questions. When we invite young learners to wonder, we encourage investigation and creativity, to explore new possibilities, ways of thinking and solving the problems of the world.

Our Butterfly Inquiry was so special. 

To begin our inquiry we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. As soon as the story was finished, we looked back through the book and asked the children to think about how the caterpillar changes in the story naturally this provided the context for questions and wonderings. Many of the children noted the growing process during which the appearance of the caterpillar changes drastically. The process of wondering took time to develop, after reading various books, watching videos/clips and finally having the caterpillars in the classroom, students began to share many of their wonderings because the children could connect with the caterpillar daily, make connections and verbalize their observations.

Our central theme in the classroom around inquiry was to develop a sense of noticing, naming and wondering.

“Inquirybased learning emphasises a student’s role in the learning process and asks them to engage with an idea or topic in an active way, rather than by sitting and listening to a teacher.”


Answering our questions… our wonderings…

Through book readings, videos, other research, and provocations, we may answer a few of the questions over time, but some questions we may never answer and that is okay. Sometimes the children have amazing theories and we discuss them. Inquiry, in the way I see it, creates and fosters a community of learners that become amazing observers, theory makers, and most importantly, wonder seekers. I believe regardless of the collection method, students are always encouraged to question, wonder, and share their wonderings with educators and classmates.


Once our butterflies arrived we placed various non-fiction books to support student inquiry.


One of the questions students ask was: “How long do butterflies stay in the chrysalis, or pupal stage?”

We learned:

  • Butterflies have four distinct stages in their life cycle. They start as an egg, hatch into a caterpillar, turn into pupae during metamorphosis, and finally emerge as a butterfly.
  • Different species of butterflies stay in the chrysalis, or pupal stage, for different periods of time. This can range from about seven days to more than a year, but for a large number of species it is less than 30 days.
  • The painted lady butterfly spends only seven to 10 days in the chrysalis.


Inquiry Prompts:

I like having available in the classroom injury prompts, I have this posted at the inquiry/science table. It helps me encourage students to wonder about the topic we are presently exploring. As their ideas will lead them to ask questions and become curious. This approach puts students in the center of the learning and offers opportunities for every child to feel included.


Representing the Butterfly Life Cycle

We learned: The butterfly life cycle includes four stages: stage one: egg; stage two: larva; stage three: pupa; and stage four: adult butterfly. Butterflies transform through these stages. This transformation is called metamorphosis.



Loose Parts + Butterfly

Since students have been working towards developing their own oral stories this term. We began by reading several stories where the main character was a butterfly.

A class favourite book throughout the inquiry was Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel


These stories helped students explore various characters, events, settings and problems in the different stories. Students were invited to use play dough, non-fiction texts (for research), and loose parts (glass beads) to create butterfly stories. Students orally shared their stories with the educators. 


“The butterfly in finding a hiding spot in the bushes, so it doesn’t get eaten by birds, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies.” -C.B.


“The butterflies were very thirsty because it was so hot outside, they are puddling together to get the moisture from the soil.” A.B.


“The butterflies have spotted a toad in the pond. The are moving slowly so the toad doesn’t see them. The two butterflies have found a small drop of water.” T.F.

Butterfly Wings and More…

The students watched a various clips from the documentary about Monarch butterflies on called “Flight of the Butterflies” which coincides with their southern migration.  They were fascinated with this process and the intricate wing patterns of this species and butterflies in general after looking closely at deceased butterfly.  Extending their interest, we decided to invite the students to create their own wing designs using loose parts.


After exploring butterfly wing designs students began to notice that the patterns, colours, and shapes were the same on either side of the wing. We discussed that in math, symmetry means that one shape becomes exactly like another when you move it in some way: turn it, flip it or slide it. We demonstrated that shapes on one side of a line are the same as on the other side of a line.

Some of the students symmetrical experiences included…


Writing: “If I were a Butterfly?”

Students had the opportunity to draw and write: What they would do if they were a butterfly. Where would they fly to?, What would they do?, How would they feel?, Who would they visit?, What may they eat?”…






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