Mrs. Rothchild’s first graders and Ms. Lim’s fifth graders are creating a butterfly garden during their weekly buddy time. Some unexpected good luck the first week of school led us to start the project in a way we thought we might end it — with a butterfly release.
Here’s what happened:
A native milkweed plant, planted by last year’s third grade classes in their Native Plant/Kumeyaay garden, was covered with Monarch caterpillars the first day of school. (See photo). With over 20 caterpillars on one small plant, I was worried they’d eat all the leaves before they had grown big enough to pupate. So I bought another milkweed plant and put it in the garden shed, ready to share the beautiful red flowers with the butterfly buddies on Friday. When I opened the shed on Friday, however, that plant was also covered with monarch caterpillars. Over the next two weeks, the buddy classes were able to watch much of the process of metamorphosis. You can share their experience through our photo gallery.
First, the caterpillars ate their fill. They they climbed to a high place and hung upside down in a “J” shape. After a half a day of hanging, each caterpillar turned into a beautiful green chrysallis with a rim of gold beading. Then, after a week and a half in the chrysallis, the chrysallis turned dark brown, then, over matter of hours it grew clear, and a monarch’s wings were visible through the shell. Soon the butterflies emerged, hanging upside down to pump blood to their wings.
The buddy classes gathered around to set them free — but the butterflies wouldn’t let go of the cage for a long time. The students speculated that it might be too windy.
At last they flew off, one by one. We saw them dancing in the air together in the garden, coming to rest on occasion in the sun.
Then half the buddy classes made collages of the process of metamorphosis, while the other half planted milkweed seeds, a milkweed plant, and a lantana plant, all of which will attract more butterflies. Then each student brought a rock or two he or she had painted, and they placed those around the butterfly plants to make the butterfly garden a beautiful place to be.
Come see it!