Research Question: How can we grow the monarch population?
Brookwood first graders are learning to become citizen scientists through the close observation of the migration and life cycle of monarch butterflies. Our research is focused on the population of monarch butterflies and what is needed to support this diminishing population. Our students spend the fall months observing classroom gardens, collecting, and recording findings. Students bring some caterpillars into the classroom, rear them into adulthood, tag them, and test them for the O.E. parasite before releasing. Through this process students learn about the life cycle of a butterfly and what is needed for their survival. During the winter months, students winterize classroom gardens, protecting them from weeds and insuring they will be ready for spring planting. Through this process, students learn how the seasons affect a garden and ways to protect plant life for healthy growth. Students also begin thinking about how they can make civic contributions through gardening once spring arrives. Students write letters and contact locals in the community, offering help in planting a butterfly garden. In the spring, students begin pulling weeds and readying the gardens for a new planting season in hopes for an upcoming monarch arrival. They also establish community gardens and give presentations on the care of the monarchs and the gardens.
Use of Data: Students record data about how many eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and adult monarchs are found in the classroom gardens and how many are brought into the classroom. Students also tag each adult monarch that is released. Those tag numbers are sent to MonarchWatch.org. When the monarch is found, the tag number is reported back to us and we are told the location where the monarch has traveled.
Our Partners: In order to further the work of the research, we rely on our expert partners to help us.
- Our project was started with the help of the Tennessee Aquarium, supplying milkweed for gardens and guidance in tagging and releasing.
- We have partnered with Journey North to report local sightings of adult monarchs.
- In partnership with the University of Georgia, we collect samples from each adult monarch, testing for the O.E. parasite to further their research.
- We work with MonarchWatch.org to tag and release adult monarchs.
- We have partnered with schools and the community to plant butterfly gardens around the city of Dalton. Gardens can be found at such places as the Dalton-Whitfield Public Library, several assisted living communities, and most elementary schools in our district.
- We have also partnered with Shepard’s Mulch each year to provide mulch for our classroom and community gardens.
Civic Contributions to our Community:
Teachers and students contact local community businesses, offering to help plant a butterfly garden. Each class chooses a location and talks with the partner about what is needed for a garden. When all materials are collected by that business, students help plant the garden, giving presentations about how to care for the garden in the future and what to look for in monarch migration. Students also plant milkweed and other nectar flowers from seed to donate to these businesses. Students have also designed and distributed brochures and milkweed seeds, letting community members know what they can do at home to help the monarch population.
Integration of Core Curriculum with Research:
Students transfer what they learn in the garden and through their observation of caterpillars and adult monarchs to the classroom setting through integration of all academic areas.
- We read a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts throughout the year related to the butterflies and pollinators. We select books that assist in the ongoing learning and scaffolding of our research.
- We write about shared experiences in our gardens in order to integrate letter knowledge, phonological awareness, high-frequency word knowledge, and the writing process. This is facilitated through interactive and shared writing.
- Students write personal narratives and informational writing about their experiences in the gardens and with their interactions with caterpillars and adult monarchs.
- Students record data about the numbers of eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis, and adult monarchs found both in the gardens and in the classroom.
- Students compare this data from year to year and from classroom garden to classroom garden. These findings spur our future work in the gardens for knowing what to plant more of.
- Students measure the caterpillars as they grow. This helps us know when they are ready to form their chrysalis.
- Students record the length of time a monarch stays in its chrysalis. This helps them know when they should be expecting an adult monarch.
- Authentic scenarios allow students to solve real-world story problems using addition and subtraction.
Our Little Stories Of Effect On Students’ Lives:
“After learning about milkweed and the monarch life cycle, Nati planted a butterfly garden at her home. After letting it grow for a year, she discovered her garden was full of caterpillars. She wanted to share this with as many people as possible, so she persuaded her mom to make a video of her explaining the importance of milkweed. This video was shared with her classmates, teachers, and through social media.”
“After planting a community garden at the local library, Miller and his family wanted to make sure his garden was thriving. Throughout the summer months, they went to the garden on a regular basis, weeding, watering, and observing the population living in the garden. Once fall arrived, Miller was excited to see the caterpillars in this community garden. He even took some caterpillars home to observe the life cycle all over again!”
“Kelly came into my classroom as a shy young girl. She was ESOL and had a learning disability. Throughout the year, her excitement about the monarchs opened her eyes and her personality. Her vocabulary grew in ways I had never seen before. She could talk so excitedly about something she was passionate about. This shy girl had opened up her wings and taken flight, just like a monarch.”