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HCPSS and Howard County Conservancy Partner to Connect Students with Monarch Butterflies

March 1st, 2018

West Friendship Elementary School third grade students got to experience the migration of monarch butterflies to Mexico as part of a program made possible through a partnership of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), the Howard County Conservancy and Howard County Master Gardeners.

Last year, the HCPSS Elementary Science Office and HCPSS Grounds Services, with assistance from the Conservancy, Howard County Master Gardeners and other partners, launched a program to plant milkweed, the host plant for monarchs, at every HCPSS elementary school. The program provides students with the opportunity to witness the life cycle of the monarch butterfly in their own schoolyard.

To complement this program, local ecologist Mark Southerland and geologist Ned Tillman connected live from the El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary in Mexico with students at West Friendship Elementary School to show the monarch migration in real time and answer students’ questions. This live stream allowed students to see the monarch migration through the eyes of Howard County scientists. West Friendship was chosen because students there found monarch butterfly larvae in the fall of 2017, and successfully raised and released them. The teleconference was recorded and will be available to all third grade students for instructional use.

The program coincides with the third grade unit on life cycles and traits. In the unit, students investigate scientific concerns about monarch butterflies and become biologists to study life cycles of plants and animals by raising monarchs in the classroom and growing their own plants from seed. Students will use information and their own observations and research to determine what is happening to the monarch butterfly, why monarchs are struggling, and how humans can help.