UNION CITY, Ohio — It was all about the monarch butterfly for third-grade students at Mississinawa Valley Elementary School on Wednesday. The students were gathered in Mrs. Mayo’s classroom to learn about the butterfly under the direction of Mandy Martin, naturalist, with Darke County Parks.
Martin, along with Pam Siegel, a park volunteer, began with a slideshow highlighting the monarch’s life cycle from egg to caterpillar, then to pupa or chrysalis, before the final transformation to the bright orange butterfly we all recognize.
Of course, the star attraction was the caterpillar, one in the pupa stage, brought by Martin and Siegel for students to observe in a clear container. The students had some familiarity with the monarch, especially the milkweed plant the butterfly depends on, not only for laying eggs but sustaining the caterpillar before its pupa stage. The students had some familiarity with the milkweed plant given they have a butterfly garden right outside the classroom window. The garden, explained Mayo, was dedicated in memory of a third-grade student who passed away five years ago.
The students were eager with questions such as why the monarch is orange (to ward off predators) to how its unique tongue gathers nectar. But nothing compared to the monarch’s impressive migration with the declaration of “Holy monarch!” from one student as Martin shared a photo of thousands of monarch butterflies in the sky.
Martin explained how, in late summer into fall, millions of monarch butterflies travel from North America to the warm sanctuary of central Mexico.
It was the migration that brought Martin and Siegel to the school that day, as the students will be participating in a unique project called the Symbolic Migration. The classroom will decorate a large paper butterfly with symbols of their school or the community, anything they decide as a group.
Once completed, the class monarch will then travel to classrooms near the monarchs’ sanctuary in Mexico.
Not only will the students decorate one butterfly as a class, but each will also decorate a hand-size paper butterfly as they wish. The small paper butterflies will be redistributed, so every participant will receive and get to keep another student’s monarch. The third-grade students were eager to get started with suggestions to include the word respect and their school mascot, before getting into a line to see the caterpillar up close.
The Friends of the Park has been funding the Symbolic Migration for the last five years. It is an opportunity for students to learn not only about the monarch and conservation efforts but other students. This year is the second for third-grade students at Mississinawa Valley to participate in the project. Greenville and Arcanum students are also participating. It is a global effort to learn about conservation and cooperation with Journey North hosting the program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.
This year marks the 24th annual Symbolic Monarch Butterfly Migration program.
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937/548-3330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.