Save the Butterflies!

In the last couple decades or so, pesticides have been killing pesky insects, but also the not so pesky, the bees and butterflies. The Monarch butterfly population has dwindled 90% since then and dwindling their very important roles in the ecosystem: pollination.  How can we help save the declining population? We can have our students or children participate in saving them and start the awareness with each generation to come. My absolute favorite part of this is, yes we are saving the butterflies but also, the amazement you see on the children’s faces when the cycle comes to an end. It’s breathless and astonishing for the children (and teachers) to watch. We can read about it, teach it, talk about it but when the time comes and they can see it with their own eyes, is a sight that they will leave it ingrained in those that witness it. 

For years, my students and I search for eggs on Milkweed plants which are the only plant they lay eggs on. We bring them indoors and care for them every summer. There are butterfly popup habitats that we sometimes use to keep them contained because they do like to explore their surrounds! Please rest assured that they are not being captive! We are making sure they are safe inside from predators and then released into nature to continue their very important role in the ecosystem. Remember we need to make sure every single one has a chance to turn into a Monarch for the cycle to continue and continue their great migration of up to 3,000 miles to Mexico in the fall. 

What a wonderful way for children to learn to protect nature with a philanthropic gesture. 

How to Start

If you’d like to start by sharing this experience with your students or children. Start by seeking out milkweed. Some places have it growing wild depending on your area. In some places it grows so ramped that you could just pick some from the side of the road. If there is milkweed, there may be eggs and caterpillars on it so pull slow. You don’t want to lose a caterpillar. Plant it in your container or yard so that more Monarchs can lay more eggs. Alternatively, you can catch a butterfly and have it lay eggs on milkweed indoors. The more milkweed indoors or outdoors, the more chances of them laying eggs there. 

Once inside, I usually keep the eggs and caterpillars separate so that no one eats each other! The eggs are usually put into a plastic container with a loose top. A fresh milkweed leaf is put in there every other day (just to make sure they have a fresh leaf when they hatch). The bigger caterpillars are placed in the mesh habitat with a small milkweed plant in a container. In my home I place them on a bigger plant on my three-season porch against a wall. They’ll eat away the leaves and start their climb up to the ceiling to become a chrysalis.

Once the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, make sure they have a source of food. I usually have some flowers in my patio that are butterfly friendly which is just about any flower and sugar water (20% water to sugar ratio) on a bright colored plastic top from a container. 

Fact: Monarchs can lay up to 300 eggs in their lifetime which can be up to 6 weeks (Approximately 3-4 days as an egg, 10-14 days as a caterpillar and 10-14 days in a chrysalis and a couple weeks as a butterfly). 

Tip: When placing a milkweed plant in a container with water place paper towels around the base. Caterpillars do not swim! Or, instead of containers with water, use a floral tube and stand it in a mug.

Tip: When placing caterpillars in a room like my patio, clean away spiders and spider webs at least weekly. The spider webs will trap both for the caterpillars or butterflies if their paths cross.

Now let’s search for eggs and caterpillars bring them in and see watch the wonderful transformation.



Grocery Shopping – Learning Through Daily Routines

Grocery shopping is a learning ground for teaching children about their environment, what kinds of food they eat, choices of food, about mathematics and compromising and taking risks such as tasting new foods. Before going on your shopping trip make sure to bring the children’s journals and some colored
pencils and a camera to document in pictures for their child portfolios. Some of the children will enjoy carrying the journals around and document what they see and observe. You could ask them some prompting questions after their trip such as “what was your favorite part of the trip?”, “which was your favorite green fruit or vegetable?” or “how was the hummus you tried at the store? Did you like it? What did you think of it?” “Some of you watched the scale as we weighed bananas, what happens to the arrow when we added a banana to the scale?” Questions like these will stimulate and provoke the children’s memories and create meaningful context around their experience at the grocery store. My students keep asking to go to the grocery store. They not only learned a ton but also enjoyed it very much! As you can see in our video, the children bought groceries, bought a bouquet of flowers for our “grandmas and grandpa’s” at the senior living and then even made a snack together! See the glee in their eyes, this is worth all the work involved!



Making Tamales – Introducing New Foods

Many families have their home cooking traditions and in many Latino homes, the making of tamales is a very special time. It’s a time to gather, chat, bond, and build tradition. Young ones learn from others in the family, connecting generations at one table. As a teacher, exposing my students to experience
this wonderful tradition has been a mission. My students have learned so much from these lessons. To top it off they feel accomplished, included, and encouraged to continue with learning new tasks and sequence of steps. They also learn to try foods that they are not exposed to.

Find a favorite recipe for tamales and set up on a large table. It's usually best that the teacher makes the fillings and masa in advance without too much help from the kids, but assembly time is totally about the kids. Delegating some tasks is a good way to establish jobs. Assembly line style has worked for me in every instance. A couple students can be in charge of spooning/spreading masa into the cornhusks and others adding the filling into the individual tamales and some to fold them.

I had the experience with my 3-5 year olds and the older ones would actually help the younger ones. Children are sometimes eager to put their leadership skills to use and what a better way than them teaching the younger ones. Participation of each child makes this experience memorable and exciting. Eating their hard work is even more exciting! Check out some pictures.