Channel 4 Learning

Making It: Programmes 27–39
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Aims | Outline | Curriculum Relevance | Background | Activities | Links | Image and Link to Print Version

Making It: Programmes 27–39
Programme 27: Luke, Phumla and Natasha Make Butterfly Feeders


After watching the programme, pupils should be able to:

  • use appropriate tools and techniques to make a product;
  • measure, mark out, cut and shape a range of materials;
  • assemble, join and combine components and materials accurately;
  • use finishing techniques to strengthen and improve the appearance of their product;
  • design and make assignments using stiff and flexible sheet materials.

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Luke, Phumla and Natasha are playing in their South African garden. They try feeding the birds, without much success. They decide to make a feeder for another creature.

They cut the tops off plastic pop bottles and plait ribbons together to make handles. They use plastic tubs to make lids for their feeders and thread the handles through them. Next, they attach the handles to the bottles. When the lids are in place, the children make holes in the sides of the pop bottles. Finally, they chop up some sweet oranges and fill the bottles with the sticky chunks.

Luke, Phumla and Natasha hang their feeders in different parts of the garden. Soon, butterflies are attracted to the feeders and begin to suck out the sweet juice with their long tongues. A few twigs, pushed into the holes in the side of a feeder, give the butterflies somewhere to rest.

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Curriculum Relevance

  • Art: investigating and making art, craft and design.
  • Science: living things.

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Butterflies feed on the sweet sugary nectar in flowers. Butterflies have very long tongues, which they uncoil to reach the nectar. The tongue (or proboscis) is hollow like a straw, so the butterfly can suck up the nectar.

There are many different butterflies and each kind has its own wing pattern. Follow the links from this site to find out more. You could do a survey in a garden or park to see how many different types you can spot in your area.

Butterflies are strongly attracted by the scent of nectar, which they detect with their long antennae. The colour of flowers is also important. Butterflies prefer blue flowers (such as buddleia, lavender or lilac) or yellow flowers (such as marigolds), but tend to avoid red ones.

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Make Your Own Butterfly Feeder

You will need: plastic bottle; string or garden wire; pliers to cut the wire (scissors if you're using string); something to make holes in the bottle (you could use a small nail or drawing pin, but it's best to use a tool called a bradawl, which has a sharp point and an easy-to-hold handle). You also need half a cup of sugar, a jug of water and a large bowl.

Before you start: think about how to use the equipment safely and whether you need an adult to supervise. Check with your teacher if you are not sure.

  1. Cut a 20cm length of wire (or string).
  2. Put the neck of the bottle in the middle of the wire. Twist the wire around the bottleneck until it is held tightly.
  3. Twist or tie the free ends of the wire to make a loop, so you can hang the bottle up by its neck.
  4. Carefully make two holes in the base of the bottle. Try to make the smallest holes possible.
  5. Put the bottle in a bowl. Dissolve the sugar in a jug of water and pour it into the bottle. Fix the cap back on the bottle. Carry the bottle outside in the bowl to stop it making a mess.
  6. Hang your bottle outside in an area where you have seen butterflies.
  7. The sugar-water will slowly drip out of the bottle and butterflies will be able to sip from the puddle it makes on the ground.

Make a Butterfly Box

A butterfly box gives the insects a dry safe place to spend the winter.

You will need: 2 pieces wood, about 30cm long, 5cm wide and 1cm thick; small nails ('panel pins' which are about 2cm long are ideal); garden wire or string; three or four twigs about 10cm long; pliers to cut the wire (or scissors if you're using string); small saw; small hammer; pencil; ruler; sandpaper and strong waterproof tape (try some called 'duck tape' if you can get it).

  1. Draw a line from one corner of a piece of wood to a point 4 cm down on the opposite side. Do the same with the other piece of wood.
    Butterfly Box
  2. Carefully cut off the corners of both pieces of wood with the saw. Use sandpaper to smooth away any rough edges.
    Butterfly Box
  3. Put one piece of wood on top of the other. Sandwich the twigs between the 2 pieces of wood so that they stick out at right angles on one side …
    Butterfly Box
  4. Nail the top piece of wood to the bottom one, trapping the twigs tightly in between …
    Butterfly Box
  5. Cut a piece of wire (or string). Thread the wire between the 2 pieces of wood and twist it around the top nail. Tie the free ends of the wire to make a loop for hanging up the butterfly box …
    Butterfly Box
  6. Stick waterproof tape around 3 sides of the butterfly box to keep rain water out. Leave the narrow gap on the twig side of the box open for the butterflies to crawl in.
    Butterfly Box
  7. Hang your box outside in an area where you have seen butterflies. Watch to see if butterflies land on the twigs and then crawl inside.

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US websites with galleries and video clips about butterflies around the world:

Photographs and information about British butterflies:

Find out about the London Butterfly House:

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