Lisha Kill teacher brings teaching to life through monarch butterfly unit

Lisha Kill fifth grade teacher Ms. Corigliano brings one of her favorite units back to the classroom this year. Learn more about how it started, the impact the unit has on students, and the plans to expand this learning opportunity.

Ms. Corigliano shares photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

How did this project get started?

In 2018, my students and I read an article in the Time For Kids magazine about the monarch butterfly.  We learned all about this wondrous creature but we also learned that the monarch population was declining at an alarming rate.  In the article, scientists shared their concern about the eventual extinction of this species and shared solutions to help prevent extinction.  We decided that we wanted to be a part of the solution.  That class started this whole project by planting our very own milkweed garden.  This would help to provide our monarchs with the host plant they rely on for survival.  Each student planted a seedling in Lisha Kill’s Courtyard garden and took another seedling home to plant.  

What was your favorite part of the project?

This project had such potential for students to make positive changes that I wanted to include it into my science class again the following year.  In September of 2019, I ordered Monarch larvae and the students became caregivers, observers, scientists as we watched this creature grow.  Although our focus was never on the life cycle of the butterfly, we found it impossible not to be amazed at this metamorphosis.  Students’ natural curiosity led to investigation and research.  The students learned so much about this insect as we watched them grow.  The release was magical and all the students walked away with an unforgettable experience and for some, a new love and passion.

How did the pandemic impact the students learning about butterflies?

In 2020, there was so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic that it was not possible to share the miracle of the monarch metamorphosis with the students.  We still learned about the monarch and wanted to do what we could to help.  So, once again, students added to Lisha Kill’s milkweed garden and took a plant home.  

What does it mean to bring it back to the classroom this year?

I was delighted in 2021 when I could bring the entire experience back into my classroom.  Once again, we raised a kaleidoscope of monarchs.  We recently released our 12 monarchs, just in time for their annual 1,000-2,000 mile migration. While they are wintering in Mexico, our class will be working to bring our passion, this movement to save the monarchs, out into our school and local community.  

Students in Ms. Corigliano’s class release twelve monarch butterflies on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

What is your future vision to expand this learning opportunity for students?

This year’s class has suggested that the fifth grade class of 2022 should add to the scientific data that is being collected by experts around the world.  They want this future class to tag the butterflies. When a scientist in Mexico finds a tagged butterfly, they call the origin of this tag for more information. so that experts in Mexico can learn more about the monarch’s migration and the population.  

Our other vision is to create a year round club that will work to raise awareness and money to fund our dream…An official Monarch Way Station.  There are strict guidelines regarding the types of plants that need to be included and the amount of acreage you must have to hold this title. Monarch Waystations are special, not just because they provide a healthy habitat for the monarchs.  They also attract and educate members of the local community.  And that is the lofty goal of this entire project…to educate and inspire others, to do what they can to help to save this magnificent creature.  What can you do to help save the Monarch Butterfly?