Students Saving An Endangered Species - Monarch Butterfy

October 23, 2019

In early August, Ms. Cotter submitted a project to DonorsChoose for Monarch caterpillars for both her classes and Miss Carter’s science classes.  Thanks to the generosity of Tyson Foods, the project was funded almost immediately. On August 30th, the newly hatched Monarch caterpillars arrived.  Inside each small container are 3-4 caterpillars. 

It did not take long and the Monarch caterpillars were eating lots of milkweed and growing rapidly.

Unfortunately, several of the caterpillars became ill and died.  After researching, the students concluded that the caterpillars became sick when people breathed into thecages when observing the caterpillars.  Additionally, much like how the common cold or influenza is transmitted (in human populations) it appears the sick caterpillars transmitted the disease to others.  Unlike humans who can be treated with medicine, caterpillars can not be helped when they get sick.

Soon, some of the caterpillars transformed in the characteristic chrysalis and later hatched out into the recognizable Monarch butterfly.  Students learned how to distinguish the males from the females - as males have a black dot on each wing and the females have thicker veins on the wings.

On September 24, 2019, one of the Monarch butterflies was released.  Several students recorded the experience.

Although not all the caterpillars survived to the butterfly stage, several butterflies were tagged and released.  Monarchs have four separate generations that enable them to fly over 3000 miles from Canada to Mexico. Each generation grows, reproduces and flies closer to Mexico.  The generation the 7th-grade students raised were the 4th or super generation that flies to Mexico and then returns to the southern USA in late spring to reproduce. Connecting students to nature helps them learn and care about and protect the Earth and nature.

Last May,  representatives from Monarch Watch visited Ms. Cotter and Miss Carter’s classes to teach last year’s 7th graders about what they can do to help the Monarch.  Students made seed balls and also were given milkweed plants to take home. Some students in the Multiple Choices Gardening class helped plant milkweed and other flowers in the raised garden beds.  Monarchs rely on milkweed to lay their eggs and since the caterpillars will only eat milkweed - it is essential to allow milkweed to grow. Additionally, planting other flowers will help the Monarch butterflies - as they feed only on nectar.