Exploring the Life Cycle of Monarch Butterfly
This is the first post in a series of posts geared towards classroom educators that will showcase a creative technologist’s interpretation of a middle school NGSS standard. Each post will share ideas for exploring subjects that aren’t traditionally covered in classroom technology projects such as genetics or the solar system. Additionally, each post will contain an example project, sample questions prompts for students, and ideas for implementing and expanding on the example project in your classroom.
- Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for micro:bit
- Crafting materials: paper, drawing and coloring supplies, glue, tape
Check your Understanding. Before completing this activity students and teachers should:
Using the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for micro:bit, students will create a model of a plant or animal that demonstrates through interactive electronic elements how environmental or genetic factors can influence the growth of the organism. Students will collect evidence to inform how their interactive elements will work.
I focused on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly for this example. There are many environmental factors that can influence the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. In my example I show how the maturity of the milkweed plant that monarch caterpillars eat influences the size of the adult monarch butterfly by pressing images of young and mature milkweed that I’ve added to the buttons on the micro:bit. When the young milkweed is pressed, a servo motor with images of a large and small butterfly rotates and the smaller butterfly is on top because monarch larvae that eat younger milkweed plants are often smaller than larvae that eat more mature milkweed plants. When the mature milkweed button is pressed, the larger butterfly rotates to the top.
I show how temperature influences the development of the monarch butterfly by using the temperature sensor on the micro:bit to change the color of a tricolor LED. When the temperature is in a good range the light is green, if it’s too hot for the monarch butterfly to complete its life cycle the light turns red, if it’s too cold the light turns blue.
In this video I’m using touch to warm up the micro:bit in order to get it to change colors.
Before beginning this project with students come up with a timeline that’s appropriate for your classroom. This is a flexible project that could be completed over the course of a couple full class periods or could be broken up into smaller parts and completed in a few weeks.
Prompt students to pick an organism to research and find relevant and applicable information on how genetics or environmental factors affect the growth of the organism.
Have students brainstorm creative ways to communicate the information learned about the growth and development of an organism.
Ask students to create a plan for the model.
Give students time to assemble the project.
Consider having students share their final project with peers, gather feedback, and iterate!
Ideas for Taking it Further
A: Set up a growth experiment in the classroom and have students create interactive models that model the results of their own research questions. This could look like growing different varieties of plants or raising butterflies. Consider partnering with another class that has an observable growth experiment in their class and have students observe and craft models based on that data.
Create an environment for the organism that was modeled using craft materials or additional electronic components. Prompts to consider might be: How does the amount of space an organism has around it affect its size? What things does this organism need in its environment in order to survive?