Migrating Monarch Butterfly




Introduction: Migrating Monarch Butterfly

This is a craft designed for masses of elementary school students to do with relatively little adult help.  It was directly inspired by Kiteman's Climbing Gorilla; think of this as the fast, cheap and almost out of control version (250+ made in 3 hours by young people ages 4 to 12).  It was easy to set up and get supplies for, which were about $60 ($20 of which were markers).

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Step 1: Assemble Materials and Tools.


Scissors to cut straws and string
Computer to print out original butterfly sheet
Copier or copy store to make multiples of sheet.
(Only for at-home version:  glue gun)


Card stock 
Drinking straws
Transparent tape (not required for at-home glue-gun version)
String (White cotton household string is what I used; kitchen twine is fine; whatever the drugstore down the street from the event has in stock mid-event also turned out to be fine.)

Step 2: Make Butterfly

I found the single monarch image in a google search.  You could use any image, of course.

I've uploaded the document as you see it here: one side with 6 butterflies, the other with 6 maps of where in Mexico the monarchs come from.

Copy these onto the thickest cardstock you have access to.  If it's too floppy, the toy won't work. 

Alternatively, as I did on the prototype, glue the butterfly to a piece of thin cardboard.  This worked at home, but would have been an added (unbearable) step at the event.

Cut butterflies apart.

Step 3: Cut and Attach Channel Straws

Cut 1-inch (roughly) lengths of straw for the string channels on the back of the card.  The trick is to make them long enough that a inexpertly placed piece of tape to attach them to the card won't easily cover the ends.

Cut 3 to 4-inch lengths for the upper cross piece.  In the end of each cross piece, make a snip about a 1/4 or 1/3 of an inch in.  This is where the string will be channelled through later.

Most of this cutting I did sitting at the activity table while young artists were carefully coloring in their butterflies.

Tape the straws to the back of the butterfly card in the upper corners at 45 degree angles, as seen in the picture, keeping the ends clear.
(Those pictured in the next step are ones I glued on with the glue gun.)

Step 4: Cut, Knot and Thread String

The length of string is not particularly important, although you need at least a foot hanging below the crosspiece for the butterfly to climb; that would mean about a 2 1/2 foot piece at the very shortest.  4 1/2 makes a bigger toy (longer migration). 

Before I began to run short of string (see Materials, above), I was pulling off about a 2 foot length, folding at the 2 foot mark and tying a knot that gives a small loop, then pulling the doubled length down to the original cut end and cutting it off there. 

Hand the students the knotted string and have them pull each of the ends down through the straws.

Once the string is through, have them (or help them) tie a couple of knots at the end of each string so the butterfly won't slip off.  The fancy, home version had beads on it; I fantasized these could be in colors that represented Michoacan, somehow--green for the exported avocadoes, for instance.  The step-down version was using super short bits of straw as beads, but this was unnecessary.  Knots were just fine.

Step 5: Insert Straw Crosspiece

Hold the toy by top loop and press the string into one end of the crosspiece and then the other, sliding the straw up until the two string sides of the isosceles triangle you've just made are equal and taut.

Step 6: Play!

Hang the loop over a fixed point, or have someone else hold it.

Slide the butterfly down to the knotted ends of the string.

Pinch one knot in each hand and pull each one alternately and watch the butterfly begin to climb (migrate) north!

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2 Discussions

Kite builder
Kite builder

6 years ago on Introduction

You also can make a clinbing kite this way:

printout this:


Cutout both kite-shapes.

glue the yellow one with the face on cardboard and cut it out again.

Glue a piece of string as kite-Tail onto the backside (at the bottom corner) of the cardboard kite and then glue on the white kiteshape from the printout.

Cut two sttraw-pieces forom the length of the dotted-line-rectangles on the kite´s backside and then tape them exactly into the rectangles.

Tie bows out of thin paper to the tail-string and optional glue two or three more bows to the other corners of the kite.

Add the pull-strings like shown in the original-instructable.