Butterflies take flight
by AZIZA JACKSON
Fourth-grade Munford Elementary School student Peyton Gaither releases a butterfly that is tagged on its lower right wing.
Students are taking flight this fall with the “Journey North” program that will track the migration of the Monarch butterfly to the mountains of Mexico.

Gifted teacher Susan Brewer is one of four teachers that have been hands-on with third through sixth-graders at Munford Elementary, Munford Middle and Stemley Road Elementary schools as they learn about the Monarch butterfly, its habits and migration patterns.

“We have a different theme each year with our students,” Brewer said. “Our theme this year is flight and we wanted to start out with insects and how scientists study insects and mimic their flight habits for aircrafts.

“So once we got into developing our lessons, we started looking into these insects and we discovered the Monarch butterfly. They are one of the few species that migrate.”

Brewer said she and her colleagues ran across the “Journey North” project that provided a number of resources and learning tools for her gifted students.

“Those are the students who think outside of the box, high-end learners who are creative,” Brewer said. “Their needs are a little different; they need to be challenged.”

The project has proven itself to be a fun challenge for students.

They are collaborating with a large number of students as far away as Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States.

The Journey North website has many resources that help students and teachers, not only learn about Monarchs, but allow them to be interactive in the migration process.

Kimberly Murray, the science interventionist for Munford schools, bought Monarch caterpillars for the students and provided milkweed for the caterpillars to eat.

Students watched the caterpillars’ life cycle unfold before their very eyes, and with a web cam that was set up so that the students could monitor their caterpillars over the weekends.

Murray also ordered tags for the students to place on the butterflies’ wings and track their Monarchs to Mexico.

“Now we’ve released the monarchs and they are en route to Mexico, and if they are recovered in Mexico then they will post it online on that website with an interactive map,” Brewer said.

“They even made a symbolic Monarch they have sent to Mexico and included things about them and class photo. In the spring, we will receive a symbolic monarch from a school in Mexico, Canada, or here in the U.S.”

The symbolic paper Monarch not only represents the real-life Monarch butterfly’s migration, but builds a bridge of communication between two cultures; the symbolic Monarchs made by students from the United States and Canada find their way to students living in the monarch sanctuary area in Mexico.

“They had to go on Google to translate their message from English to Spanish, so there were a lot of factors in this,” Brewer said.

Brewer said a total of 86 students from all three of her schools participated in the project.

“Of course my Munford students got a special treat because one of the teachers at the high school, Ms. Leslie Wright, was working on the project with her students,” Brewer said.”

“The kids were just absolutely fascinated and so excited to work with the high school and the high schoolers were great. They helped the students tag the butterflies and allowed my students to hold the butterfly and release it. They were really sweet.”

Brewer said she hopes her students understand that they are just one piece of a large puzzle, and that they understand how big of an experience this was.

“I hope students took away their excitement for learning,” Brewer said. “The kids are wanting to gain more knowledge on their own without being prompted to do so. There is nothing more that I could ask for.”

Contact Aziza Jackson at ajackson@dailyohme.com.

© 2012