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Young Scientists Track Monarch Butterfly Migration

First- and second-graders experienced a climactic moment last Friday in their study of monarch butterflies, coming together with their friends in Junior Kindergarten to release 23 monarchs off onto their migratory journey down to Mexico.

Students dressed up in monarch colors, many wearing homemade wings, and wished the butterflies safe travels on their 2,000-mile journey south. After the release, they followed a few of the monarchs who stuck around to fuel up with nectar before departing.

PHOTOS: Monarch Butterfly Migration

The children also participated in a migration simulation in which they needed to collect nectar (colored paper squares) along their journey south (i.e., from soccer goal to the other). When Ms. Peacock called out that the sun was going down or that rain was coming, the student butterflies had to find safe roost by clustering around faculty members playing trees.

This exploration of the hazardous migration process continued lessons the first- and second-graders have learned about the monarch life cycle. Students are learning how to observe closely, ask meaningful questions, and document their understanding in words.

Why Monarchs?

In the Early Childhood program, many of the children have experienced monarchs or painted lady butterflies in their classes. There is something magical about the transformation that butterflies endure. As children grow, their love of the monarch and other butterflies grows. It is a beautiful and motivating way to take their love of science in more depth as they are ready to take on more challenges.

Because they are connected to the monarch, they are motivated to help the monarch. Children can begin to understand that they can make a difference and help the population of the monarch. Children are learning how to tag monarchs. The tags are official and come from the Monarch Watch program, where scientists will use the tagging data to better understand the monarch’s migration. We are teaching children that they have a voice in the world of science and what they do for monarchs is important and necessary.

What Next?

First- and second-graders are creating paper monarch ambassadors to represent each class. These paper monarchs will fly to a school in Michoacan, Mexico, with letters written during Spanish class with Señora P. Next spring, the paper monarchs will return with a letter from our new friends south of the border.

And of course, we will keep tracking the progress of the monarchs we’ve released this month, following online as they journey to their winter home!