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Miraculous monarchs

One of the hand-raised monarchs prepares for flight.

October 13, 2011

First-grade students at George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey, NY recently experienced the miraculous life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Teachers Kelly Robertson and Shari VanHage collected eight caterpillars to kick off the hands-on learning experience.

The students fed the black, yellow and white-striped caterpillars their favorite food—milkweed leaves—and observed their daily growth. They saw the caterpillars form J-hooks before becoming beautiful jade-colored chrysalides. After a few weeks, the excited first graders witnessed them emerge with crumpled wet wings.  Once the wings were dry, the students went outside and released them.

“I liked when we let the butterflies go,” said student Kristen Amoroso. “I liked to watch them fly away,” agreed Patrick Adams. “I learned that when the butterflies go off, they lay eggs,” observed Brialyn Sobolewski.

The project follows New York State Common Core Learning Standards in Science—to explore how living things change over their lifetimes and to identify the simple life process common to all living things. The students read books such as “The Hungry Little Caterpillar,” “I’m a Caterpillar” and “Caterpillar Spring Butterfly Summer” in preparing for the experience.

“The students really enjoyed and benefited from learning about the life cycle of the butterfly,” said Robertson. “I believe they were able to understand each stage of the life cycle more clearly because they watched the caterpillars and butterflies with their own eyes.”