A Time of Their Own

AIMS Education Foundation
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Unit
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


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Students raise butterflies and moths: observing, comparing, and contrasting their life cycles. Students will note the similarities of these organisms metamophosis (same stages, same order) and the differences (the amount of time they each spend in different stages, chrysalis versus cocoon). Students collaborate to make a book recording the changes in the organisms and a scripted film strip explaining the life cycle stages of the butterflies and moths.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

3-LS1-1 Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

Clarification Statement: Changes organisms go through during their life form a pattern.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of plant life cycles is limited to those of flowering plants. Assessment does not include details of human reproduction.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students meet this performance expectation through on going observations and discussions while developing models summarized by their big books and the filmstrip of butterflies and moth life cycles. To add more diversity of life cycles the teacher should introduce other organisms with different life cycles through read-alouds or other media. Students could also observe close-up photos or videos of moths and butterflies, and then create similar/different charts to explain physical and behavioral differences. Adding discussion questions could allow students to journal their thoughts about how life cycles might differ. For instance, “What is the difference in how the butterfly makes its chrysalis and how the moth makes its cocoon?”

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The observations and illustrations in the big book project and the stages in the filmstrip activity are both forms of models (diagrams) that illustrate the life cycle process.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity allows the students to compare two different life cycles of animals, but to fully address the Disciplinary Core Idea, the students should also examine plant life cycles. Pea plants or lima beans are easy plants to grow and observe in the classroom, and can be grown during the same time frame a class might observe the moths and butterfly life cycles.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
By observing the butterflies and the moths, students can use the emergence and life cycle of the first organism (or other organisms learned about through media) to predict the life cycle period and pattern of the second organism. Teachers should explicitly ask students to look for and consider patterns in life cycles of other organisms and have students apply them to others. Once a pattern is established, the teacher can reinforce the idea by bringing in other examples from nature. To reinforce the point that organisms have similar yet unique life cycles, students should keep track of the amount of time taken in each stage for the organism being observed, and the data made into a table or bar graph so that students have a visual comparison of the two life cycles to analyze.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource engages students in authentic science practices to make sense of the pattern of life cycles. The activity also uses the amount of leaf that the caterpillar/moth larvae ate to teach fractions, which is a real-world application of fractions.

  • Instructional Supports: While the lesson is very helpful with suggestions for where to find and how to grow butterflies and moths, it is not as strong in the area of assessment. There is no mention of pre-assessment, and there are no rubrics for assessing the final filmstrip project. This unit could be updated by asking the students to use technology to actually create a short video describing their own butterfly and moth life cycles. Students could create a storyboard drawing sketches or using digital photos and writing or recording their observations and arranging them sequentially in the video. The storyboard makes it easy to renumber sections if the students decide to change the sequence before filming. It is also a good guide to keep students on track with the content of the video once filming begins. If this is the first time that the students have studied a life cycle, then the vocabulary for the stages (larva, cocoon, chrysalis) should be introduced before the lesson begins.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher monitors student progress through class and small group discussions and observations of student ideas and work as the groups complete their big book project. Creating and introducing a rubric for the filmstrip project before the students begin the project is recommended. To assess understanding of vocabulary, consider having students match life cycle photos with vocabulary for each stage. Students could also create a "Who Am I?" riddle game in which they write clues about each stage, then "test" their classmates as they respond to each riddle. After the books and film strips /videos are complete, the student groups could invite other grade-level classrooms to visit as they share their big books and film strips. This type of oral presentation could serve as a form of assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not use interactive technology, but would lend itself well to adding technology. A couple of suggestions for adding technology would be to add a Smartboard Butterfly life cycle game to the instruction, such as the one at http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/scienceforkids/life_cycle/butterfly_lifecycle.htm, and to have students make their filmstrip into a real video (see Instructional Supports Comments above).