(April 19, 2019) For Buckingham Elementary School, a $750 grant to study monarch butterflies will help students learn all about the majestic creatures and celebrate their own heritages.
“The goal was to apply for the grant so we could relate the migration story of the monarchs with the migration stories of our families,” said Karen Conner, who leads an English Learners program for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students at the Berlin school.
Conner’s interest was first piqued when she read about tagged monarch butterflies being tracked from Maryland and Virginia in their travels to and from Mexico. She then applied for the grant with the “hope [of] eventually hav[ing] fourth-generation monarchs make the migration to Mexico.”
The school received the funding from the Nature Generation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children connect with the environment. The grant could be used at the school’s discretion.
Conner said the school currently has 10 butterflies, and was expected to receive 72 caterpillars this week. Its outdoor classroom includes a migration station, butterfly garden and a storybook walkway.
“We did actually get eggs, which for us, was the first time we’ve achieved the full life cycle, which was exciting,” she said.
Some 40 students take advantage of the school’s English learning services, Conner said. The majority of English Learner students speak Spanish, and celebrating Mexico is crucial as monarch butterflies embark on the journey to the neighboring country and back, Conner said.
“I think it’s really allowed us to celebrate as we say, ‘our EL community within our school community,’” Conner said. “[The program] works as a really good outreach to our English Learner families as well.”
Zoe Leal-Galvan, a second grade English Learner student at Buckingham Elementary School, said she was looking forward to the migration station.
“I liked the books about butterflies and learning they fly to Mexico and back here,” she said.
Second grade student Danielle Plata Arce said she loved using candy to illustrate the life cycle.
“I liked making the butterfly life cycle kits for pre-K with marshmallows, gummy worms, tootsie rolls and crackers shaped like butterflies,” she said.
Anthony Lozano-Alvarez, a second grade English Learner student, said he enjoyed taking a visual approach for a better understanding of butterflies.
“I liked making the learning buckets for pre-K to learn about butterflies,” he said.
While there is an emphasis on the English Learner program, Conner said all 550 students at Buckingham Elementary School will have access to the butterfly station “to celebrate all those signs of spring and what they mean.”
Many students have been curious already, she said, and “there’s nothing than gets [the children] more excited than walking around the school with a small habitat of butterflies.”
Conner said students learn about the life cycle, but the program allows the opportunity to take a holistic approach to the study.
“We’ve really been able to do cross curriculum that we’ve been able to pull all the different things that they’re doing while increasing their English proficiency, which is what my goal is as an English Learner teacher,” she said.
Conner said she anticipates the program will continue throughout the year. In the winter, Conner said things will be dormant but milkweed, plants and bushes will return next spring.
“We expect it to be part of Buckingham Elementary School for a long time to come,” Conner said.