Today was all about monarch butterflies, their life history, amazing beauty and crazy cool characteristics. We started the day by meeting our three new friends who couldn’t join us for our first class. It was a great opportunity to share a favorite memory from the weekend and go over our intentions and guidelines one more time. Some of the awesome things we did over the weekend included getting back from a vacation from Scotland, having a birthday and getting a new kitten for our gift!
We introduced a new, fun activity that would help us accomplish some great feats while exploring Irvine and nature. This is called our Nature Achievements. Some of our nature achievements include: helping build a campfire, filling 10 pages of our journal, learning about 4 different land artists, participating in 2 group discussions, listening to a story at the Native American village, and many more. We are hoping to complete 11 out of 13 of them by the end of fall! Another one of our achievements is to learn more about the monarch butterfly life cycle and build a nature art installation related to monarchs. This is one the one we completed today! Before we got to go outside and our art installations we wanted to learn more about these fascinating insects that weigh only as much as a few grains of rice but somehow manage to travel 3,000 miles to Mexico and back.
In the exhibit hall we got to join a special presentation from Ms. Jenna about our monarch butterflies and other butterflies and moths we have at Irvine. All of the butterflies and moths we learned about are native to Maryland. Being native to an area means that animal originated there and evolved to live in the ecosystems of that area and were not introduced to the area by humans. The species we learned about were the monarch, spicebush swallowtail butterfly, tiger swallowtail butterfly, luna moth and imperial moth. We even got to see caterpillars and or pupas of each species! The following links provide some background information if you want to learn more about the butterflies and moths of Maryland:
If you want to learn more about monarch butterflies and learn how you can help monarch butterflies monarch watch is one of your best resources:
On this site there are some great pdf links to check out with very helpful ID pictures:
A link including moth species:
iNaturalist is a great way to become part of a larger citizen science project:
Ms. Jenna showed us monarch butterflies in all of their life stages except the egg. We got to see them as a caterpillar eating their host plant milkweed (a host plant is a plant that is required by a species to reproduce and grow. Monarchs ONLY lay their eggs on milkweed species and their young ONLY feed on milkweed plants). We also got to see the monarch as a beautiful chrysalis and adult butterfly. We also got to get a close look at the adorable spicebush swallowtail butterfly as they wrap themselves up like a sleeping bag in spicebush or sassafras plant leaves. Tiger swallowtails were in their brown camouflaged chrysalis. Tiger swallowtails like to eat a lot of garden herbs like dill! We also got to see a luna moth wiggle in its cocoon and see the silky spun cocoons they normally make. Lastly we got to see the amazing imperial moth caterpillar munching away on some maple. Did you know these caterpillars actually dig underground to make their cocoon and then emerge as a moth underground and dig up through the dirt as an adult moth, wow!
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly:
Here are some of the cool things we wondered and learned about as we listened to the presentation: we learned which species were poisonous, Solace asked about the stickers, we wondered about the hairs on the bodies of the moth caterpillar, we learned the difference between the male and female monarchs (males have two black dots on their bottom wings), we learned that moths are born without mouths and we learned the difference between male and female moths (males have larger, fuzzier antennae to catch pheromones from females). Outside we got to watch as Ms. Jenna released five monarch butterflies onto a flower called goldenrod. Goldenrod is a critically important nectar plant for monarchs as they start their journey south to Mexico.
Learn how to identify goldenrod:
With our knowledge of monarchs, we headed outside, hiked through the woods, into the meadow and stopped at the Ed Hut. We enjoyed snack and shared our favorite nature game ideas. We decided to play a nature game called Fire in the Forest. Not only is the game fun but it’s educational! The kids all line up one side of the field and choose a real animal in their heads. There are two taggers in a designated play area. They will be yelling out different characteristics or adaptations. If it applies to your animal you have to run to the other side and avoid being tagged. If you get tagged you become a tree and can try to tag other animals as they run by. Here’s an example: if someone was thinking of a fox as their animal and the taggers yelled “You are a mammal!” You have to run and avoid being tagged. But if the taggers yelled “Lives in the water!” You as the fox don’t have to run. Sometimes the taggers will yell “Fire in the Forest!” all the animals have to run.
After playing a fun game, we split into four groups. We then had to come up with an art installation that represented a specific part of the monarch life cycle (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly). Here were our groups. Please loot at the pictures below to see our creations! Monarch egg group: Arianna, Naftali and Mrs. Kelly. We created a stick cage, covered in grasses with a curled leaf in the center. Caterpillar group: Solace, Nazir, Jackson, Julian. They designed their caterpillar on paper first and then started creating it out of sticks on the ground. Chrysalis group: Alden, Sara Jane, Ms. Crystal. They got their chrysalis to hang from a branch using a sticky mile-a-minute vine and then wrapped leaves and other plants into a chrysalis and hung it. The butterfly group: Lev, Shama, Leo and Fiona. They created their butterfly from a Y shaped stick and leaves and placed it on the sign so everyone could see.
Our art installation was made from all natural materials and was meant to be an educational display so others could learn about the monarch butterfly. It’s not meant to be permanent or last very long. I wonder if any of them will make it to next week? We’ll just have to wait and see!