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Raising Monarchs

Becky Langerman | Brevard, NC

As a teacher, sometimes you feel a calling in your inner core towards something you must do in the classroom. This summer, I began dreaming about Monarchs. While I dream about students quite often, I’m referring to actual Monarch butterflies. Ever since we named the Monarch Class in 2009, I’ve collected Monarch paraphernalia, mostly as gifts from students or parents or friends. But it had never occurred to me to actually bring Monarchs into the classroom. Coming off of Summer break, I knew this was the year. It was perfect timing for this particular group of students.

 

After a lot of research, I was finally connected with our local Monarch expert Mrs. Joyce. I had met her years ago at one festival or another as she educates the

Safe travels to Mexico!

community about the importance of saving the Monarchs. She invited me to her home and there she gave me a lesson on how to raise the larvae. She set us up with an aquarium and eight tiny caterpillars, along with another container with six chrysalises waiting to emerge. I’ve never been so excited to provide my students with a learning experience (well, maybe I had, but this one is up there). My excitement must have permeated throughout the classroom, because each morning my Monarch students ran straight for the aquarium to check how much milkweed had been eaten and how the caterpillars were doubling in size overnight. They observed those six chrysalises with wonder and excitement.

About ten days later, the students had come in as usual. We noticed that there was one chrysalis ready to emerge. “We’ll keep our eyes on it,” they said and went back to work. Not even ten minutes had passed when a student squealed with excitement, “There’s a butterfly coming out!” We all gathered around and watched in awe as beautiful Monarch wings unfolded out of the chrysalis. The butterfly grew in size literally right before our eyes! After the wings were dry, we transferred the butterfly to the aquarium with some nectar plants. We did this each time a butterfly emerged over the next few days. Mrs. Joyce came to the school and taught us how to tag and release them.

Raising these Monarchs is not at all unlike raising these preteen, or “tween,” children in the Upper Elementary class. Giving this age group the name “Monarch” was not arbitrary. They enter this environment at a time when childhood is nearing the end as their bodies lengthen and their minds are more curious than ever. Adolescence is approaching, yet childhood hangs on the precipice. It is a time of extreme growth, consuming their “milkweed” of knowledge about the world to achieve exponential growth. They enter into their own form of a chrysalis as they achieve more and more independence. When adolescence is imminent we release them, trusting that all that lies within them will safely guide them along their journey through adolescence and into adulthood. No, the Monarch metaphor is certainly not random. I have been a witness to this metamorphosis for nearly two decades.  It is beautiful, miraculous, and breath-taking each and every time.

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