Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Monarch and Milkweed

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Monarch and Milkweed written by Helen Frost and illustrated by Leonid Gore follows the life cycle of both the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant.

The book begins by  focusing on the long journey the monarchs must make to arrive at the already thriving milkweed plants. As the plant begins to mature by blooming and then dropping those blooms to allow seeds to push through, the monarchs mate and fly, “From milkweed plant to milkweed plant, stopping on each to lay one shiny egg.” The descriptions of the life cycles of both the milkweed plant and monarch butterfly continues from dying plant to floating and planted seeds and from catepillar to chrysalis to butterflies respectively until the, “Milkweed’s first spring leaf unfurls,” and “Far to the south, in Mexico, Monarch rides the wind toward it.” Frost ends the book by providing some simple and easy-to-read facts about the Monarch Butterfly and includes additional resources that parents and teachers can use to support the narrative story.

Frost and Gore do a marvelous job of simplifying and clearly illustrating the lives of these two distinct yet co-dependent organisms and impresses upon students how each generation begins and ends in a cyclical pattern.

Curriculum Connections 

Monarch and Milkweed could be used in second or third grade classrooms to help students understand that some plants and animals, such as monarch butterflies and milkweed plants, undergo distinct stages during thier life cycles (VA SOL 2.4a &b). The book also covers some of the behavioral and physical adaptations such as finding shelter, migration, and instinct which allows the butterflies to respond to life needs (VA SOL 3.4a &b).

Additional Resources

  • Teachers can boost their background knowledge of monarch butterflies with this website which includes photographs.
  • Teachers may students color, cut out, and sequence these cards to reinforce the life stages of butterflies.
  • Students and teachers alike will find this make-a-buttterfly project inexpensive and engaging.
  • This website provides tips and guidance for creating a butterfly garden that students can either plant and manage at school or home.
  • The author and publishers offer additional resources in view of building additional background knowledge of monarch butterflies: Monarch Watch & Journey North

Book: Monarch and Milkweed
Author: Helen Frost
Illustrator: Leonid Gore
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 2008
Pages: 40 pages
Grade Range: 2-3
ISBN: 978-1416900856