|Source: Science Art
Students explore symmetry in nature by making bright butterflies.
1. Gather assorted books about butterflies and let students get together in small groups to read about these colorful insects and study the patterns on their wings. Bring students together after a while to discuss how the patterns are useful to butterflies (camouflage, alert predators that the butterfly is poison, attract a mate).
2. Ask students to describe characteristics many butterflies have in common (bright colors, distinctive markings and patterns, wings are the mirror image of each other).
3. Invite students to create their own butterflies. First cover work surfaces with newspapers. Divide students into groups. Give each group bottles of food coloring to share. Each student will need a cup of water and a coffee filter.
4. Show students how to fold the coffee filter in half, then in half again. Demonstrate how to dab designs on the folded filter, using different colors and shapes (such as rings, dots, or lines). Then let students get started on their own designs, replicating patterns from a real butterfly or making up their own.
5. When students are finished making their designs, show them how to set the folded tip of the filter in the cup of water. Have students observe what happens. (Thanks to capillary action, the filter soaks up water from the cup; as water reaches the colors, they begin to bleed into one another.)
6. After a few minutes (or when the water has completely soaked the filter); have students remove the filters from the water, open them up, and spread them on newspaper to dry. Ask students to describe how the colors changed. What do they notice about where the patterns appear? (The colors soaked through the folds of the filter, creating mirror-image, repeating patterns all around the circle.)
7. When the filters are dry, hand out clothespins and pipe cleaners. Guide children in following these directions to make their butterflies.