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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Butterfly Window Box

Lesson Description:
In this activity students make their own window box or container garden to attract wildlife such as butterflies. Students draw, photograph and record butterfly visitors to their garden.

Eco-Fact: Monarch butterflies along the California-Mexico migrate over 3,000 miles each year.

Before Planting a Windowbox/Container Garden:
  • Children may find it interesting to know that a butterfly tastes with its feet. The sensory organs that can taste the sugar in nectar and let the butterfly know if something is good to eat are in the feet of the butterfly. 
  • A good butterfly garden should have both sunny places to keep the butterflies warm and shady places where butterflies can cool off while they eat. 
  • Butterflies are attracted to bright colors and sweet scents.

Planting a Windowbox/Container Garden: 
  1. Begin by filling the window box or container with potting soil, almost to the top.
  2. Create a puddle for the butterflies by placing a shallow bowl or jar lid in the soil. Then fill it with a little bit of soil, and add water. This puddle helps provide water and nutrients for our fluttering friends. 
  3. Plant the butterfly friendly flowers in the box, making sure to group several types of the same flower together. 
  4. Then arrange the flat stones, or wood, in the soil around the flowers to give the butterflies a place to rest. 
  5. Set the window box or container garden in a safe, secure place outside a window where you can easily watch for visiting butterflies. 
  6. Water the garden, and butterfly puddle regularly. 
  7. In their Nature Journals students can keep track of visitors to their garden by drawing or taking photographs. They can use field guides to investigate and record types of butterfly visitors. 
  8. Students can also write observations of the activity and behavior of the butterflies that visit the garden. (What flowers do they like best? Do certain species prefer certain flowers? What time of day do you see the most butterfies? Where do they rest? When do they rest?) 
  9. After a week or two of observations conduct a class discussion.
Sample questions:
  • Which flowers attract the most butterflies? 
  • Do certain species prefer certain flowers? 
  • What time of day has the most butterfly activity?
  • What do you notice about butterfly behavior? 
  • Where do they rest? 
  • When do they rest? 

Adaptations: Students can start an art gallery of butterfly drawings and photographs. They can write captions and descriptions to accompany pictures.

Lesson Type:
  • Experiment
  • Project

Sustainability Topic:
  • Gardening

GEF Program Category:
  • Green Thumb Challenge

Time Needed:
30 - 50 minutes
Materials Needed:
  • Window box that can fit on the outside of the window ( or other container) 
  • Potting soil (without pesticides) 
  • Shallow bowl or jar lid 
  • Flat stones or small pieces of wood 
  • Annual flower seedlings such as marigolds, dwarf zinnias, globe amaranth, and petunias

School or Group:
Green Education Foundation (GEF)
Contact Email:
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf ButterflyGarden.pdf

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Center for Green Schools