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Photo by Paul Brennan via Pixabay

Database Provider


NYSDEC Environmental Education


K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd


Science, Biology, English Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New York

Leo's Colorful Story

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  • This engaging, hands-on activity brings nature into the classroom, with students actively coloring while listening to a read-aloud story.
  • Students will learn the life cycle of a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly named Leo, who uses camouflage, instincts, and toxins to keep him safe as he goes through various stages ending in metamorphosis. 
Teaching Tips


  • The resource includes simple and complex versions of the coloring sheet so teachers can choose the version that best fits their students' fine motor skills.
  • The clear directions for the lesson plan and read-aloud story make this a valuable substitute lesson.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers may wish to pause the story frequently to check for comprehension and coloring progress.
  • Students may have questions about the read-aloud story, especially the sections where Leo wiggled out of his skin and grew new skin.
  • Students should have some prior knowledge of the word instinct relating to animals and insects.
  • Vocabulary is rigorous for the age level, so teachers may wish to have visual representations of words such as forked, predator, camouflage, metamorphosis, toxins, and nectar.


  • Teachers can assign shoulder partners for this assignment since the students can help each other find the correct numbers on the page and then offer encouragement for coloring according to the directions.
  • Art teachers can begin with this lesson and then have students study photographs of other butterflies before assigning an art project involving acrylic paints.
  • Science teachers will be able to begin a unit on metamorphosis with this entertaining lesson.
  • After reading the story, consider showing students pictures of this insect in the various stages described.
  • Students can research the impacts of climate change and human activity on the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.
Scientist Notes
This lesson for K-3 students from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation artfully combines storytelling and coloring to teach students about the defenses used by a familiar species throughout its lifecycle. The included story is based on science and shares a butterfly's different defenses against predators at every stage of its life. This resource is clear, engaging, and recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Visual & Performing Arts
    • Visual Arts: Standard 11 - Relating artistic ideas and works within societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.
      • 1.5.2.Cn11a: Compare, contrast and describe why people from different places and times make art.
  • Science
    • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
      • K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
      • 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.
    • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
      • 3-LS4-2. Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.II.1.2 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
      • SL.PE.3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
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