August 20, 2010

Butterflies in the Fall?

As the Monarchs were circling my butterfly bushes this week, it reminded me of a really successful project I did 3 years ago.

Every spring in First Grade students hatch Monarch Butterflies and learn about their life cycle. The fall though is the time when Monarch Butterflies make the great migration to parts of Southern California and Mexico. Around November, during the time of Dia de los Muertos, Monarchs flood the mountain tops just north of Mexico City. People think that these butterflies are the souls of their dead ancestors returning to them. They travel from North America to the same places year after year. Not a single butterfly can make the whole trip. It takes generations of butterflies to make the long trip. Somehow each butterfly knows to complete the journey through instinct! 

This is an magical phenomenon that scientists believe will disappear in the next ten years. Many of the habitats that Monarchs migrate to are being destroyed. This project will help support the preserves in Mexico that have been set up to protect the habitat of our shared resource, the Monarch Butterflies. 

In art class we create a butterfly using symmetry and send them to Mexico, through the JOURNEY NORTH organization. You can do this too, just click on the link and follow the instructions. There are also great handouts and slideshows to accompany your art lesson. On the back, students write to a pen pal who is also making a butterfly and sending it. Journey North will set up the pen pals so this is very easy to do. In the Fall, when the Monarchs migrate back you will get a package in the mail filled with butterflies other children have made. Each student will get a butterfly from their pen pal. This symbolic migration is a beautiful way to integrate so many subjects while teaching art. 

Here are some of the butterflies we got back. I have some students make two butterflies so we have enough for students who are absent. These are the extra I saved.

Butterflies sent to us in the Fall.


Phyl said...

Erica, I absolutely LOVE the idea of this project. My school's first graders also study the monarch buterflies. So I wonder - did you do the project with the 1st graders who haven't yet learned about the monarchs, or with the 2nd graders who learned about them last spring? Did the classroom teachers participate with you, or did you do it all yourself?

Unknown said...

I am going to do it with second graders this year. Originally I did it with first grade I think. They are so little when they come in from Kindergarten, I think it will make more sense for the second graders. Who are doing it with?

I didn't get any classroom teachers to participate the last time I did it. But I am definitely going to put it out there to them. Hopefully I'll have some takers!

Phyl said...

I'm going to talk to my 2nd grade teachers. We have just 2 second grade classes, and both have enthusiastic teachers who I hope would love this. I was thinking I could do the artwork part with the kids and if they are interested, they could do the academic follow-up since my class time with them is limited and I am alrady planning so many things. I'm thinking the same as you, that the first graders are still such babies and the 2nd grade will ge more out of it.

Mrs. Art Teacher said...

Oh I'm going to do this with my 2nd and 3rd grade Spanish immersion classes. They will have to write their note in Spanish!

Phyl said...

Hi Erica, I just looked at the website for this project again, and am not so sure I'll be participating. It appears that this year, a class sends one symbolic butterfly, made as a class project, and then receives on butterfly in the spring. The kids can include individual notes and/or pictures, but the real exchange this year is the group project. I would like the idea of this project better if it was still an exchange of individaul butterflies. Then the kids have something to bring home, rather than one thing for the whole class that ends up staying in the school. Plus I don't speak a WORD of Spanish, and it appears it would be very useful! I'll still share the project w/my 1st and 2nd grade teachers, and maybe they might still want to do it and involve the high school Spanish teacher too, since we're all in the same building.
We have a couple of Mexican families in our district, with two kids entering 1st grade, and a great gal entering 5th. She didn't speak a WORD of English when she arrived 2 years ago, and she's doing SO well. I smile just thinking of her! She LOVES art. (Of course. Who doesn't?!) Maybe if we go ahead with this project we could enlist her to help w/language.