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For the past month, students in the 6th grade Project Based Learning class have been raising monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars. They are researching the question-Why do animals migrate? In preparation for the butterflies’ release in late October, students researched various questions relating to a monarch’s life. Some groups were in charge of understanding the butterfly’s life cycle, anatomy, food sources, or the climate and geography that the butterflies will face on their annual migration from Michigan to the oyamel fir forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains in central Mexico.
We are working with a local, non-profit Grand Rapids company called Michigan Butterflies, which raises monarch butterflies and provides butterfly habitats for events at John Ball Zoo, Meijer Gardens, and many other public and private occasions in the West Michigan area. On the second week of school, students of the 6th grade PBL class were presented with nearly 150 monarch butterfly eggs to take care of— as they quickly hatched and needed to be fed a specific type of food daily—milkweed!
During this project, students monitored the growth and behavior of the caterpillars as they changed from small, pale, yellow eggs to rapidly-growing eating machines and on to their dormant phase as an emerald-green and gold-lined chrysalis. The butterflies will emerge after spending 10-14 days in the chrysalis, meaning that we will have nearly 50 butterflies in the classroom by the week of Oct 22nd!
Students will be presenting their research findings near the end of October, with several groups choosing to create works such as children’s books (in Spanish and English-oruga!) or theatrical plays and presentations for the elementary school or Godfrey-Lee community about monarchs’ life cycle or
Once the butterflies emerge, they will spend several days in the classroom drying off their wings and will be tagged (with a small sticker to track them) and released.
At the end of their study, the students released the mature butterflies to begin their migration south. The 6th grade students gathered on the front lawn of the high school and invited other staff members and students to join in the release. If anyone lives in Texas or other areas where butterflies congregate on their southern migration, Mr. Borza and his students would be happy to hear from you!