Ideas for Lesson Plans using the KWP Collection

We would like to offer ideas for lesson plans. While these would need to be modified for your course or grade level requirements, we hope they are useful in getting started with ideas for using the Kenelm W. Philip collection in your class.

Lepidoptera image zoomed in

Quantifying data

Higher Education
Full lesson plan idea for an exercise in quantitative statistical analysis using drawer images from the KWP Collection. Full lesson plan here: Quantifying data using the KWP Collection 

Lepidoptera live

Biological data analysis paper 

Higher Education
Use KWP Collection data to answer questions such as “Has a certain butterfly species in Alaska changed its phenology over time?” This will require downloading data for that species, cleaning the data and graphing the flight dates by year.

Lepidoptera scale up close using scanning electron microscope

Inquiry-based biomimicry project

Grades 9-12
What can we learn from the specimens and data from the KWP Collection? Download the data files and break into groups. Questions focus on physical properties of some butterflies in the collection. Zoom into a butterfly and describe what you see. Based on the SEM images on this site, describe the general physical structure. How does it function? What are some bio-inspired ideas that have been based on butterfly wing physics? Create a new product or idea based on what you have learned about butterfly wings.

live butterfly

Lepidoptera myths & legends 

Grades 9-12
Research – Students research Lepidoptera-related myths and legends from around the Arctic, and write a reflective digital essay about how various cultures have integrated Lepidoptera into their mythos. Illustrate the essay with screen captures from KWP Collection specimens. Illustrations should include scientific name, common names, and short descriptions. Publish the digital essays on the course website.

Creative Writing – Students choose one specimen from the KWP Collection to research and write a new myth about their chosen species that integrates habitat, food sources, predators, and life cycle.

Lepidoptera anatomy & habits

Grades 3-6
Anatomy – Use the KWP Collection images to trace shapes of a specimen. Add color and label the basic parts of the butterfly anatomy.

Habits – Use a diagram of parts to construct a 3D model of one of the butterflies from the KWP Collection, label it and spend time researching the species. Students give a presentation to the class about their species (does it migrate, where is it found, what are the distinguishing characteristics, what does it eat).

butterfly specimen

Butterfly vs Moth

Grades K-3
What’s the difference? Use the  KWP Collection to look for moth and butterfly differences, can students spot them? Discuss how they are different. Break students into two groups, moths and butterflies. Make cut out paper wings and have students color and draw on them their favorite moth or butterfly. Make antennae – feathered for moths, bulb ends for butterflies. Put on a short skit with music and a sun and moon where the flowers come out during the day and the butterflies dance around and moths start coming out in the evening and dance around the lights.

synoptic collection image

Colors of Nature Resources

Grades K-12
Colors The Colors of Nature STEAM project offers a variety of excellent downloadable lesson plans for using art as a means to approach science. Full lesson plans related to Lepidoptera that you could use the Ken Philip Collection for include, but are not limited to, Kit 1-Science and Art: Core Practices – Investigation 2 and Kit 4 – Optics and Art – Structural Color.



Submit a lesson plan idea

We would love to build on this list. If you use the KWP Collection in your class, please consider submitting a lesson plan or general idea that you tried.

  1. use our general format template (Google Doc)
  2. save the lesson plan as a .docx or .pdf file
  3. email your lesson plan to Derek Sikes,