Lutherville Lab celebrates Monarch Madness


Butterfly eggs have perhaps never been as warmly received as they were at Lutherville Laboratory near the beginning of this school year.

"Dear Caterpillar: Welcome to our school," wrote Luisa, a Grade 3 student. "Sorry that you are in such a little place, but when you are a butterfly, we will let you go and you can fly away. But you will get new milkweed every day at treat I think. You have a little cage, and I am sorry about that, but at least in a couple months, you will be free. I hope you have a good time in there. And welcome!!"

As part of the school’s science, mathematics, and communications magnet program, Lutherville Lab students at every grade level participate in learning about, caring for and celebrating the development of Monarch butterflies from egg to adult. This has been an annual project at the school for about 10 years. This year, the eggs arrived on Sept. 6, and the butterflies were released on Oct. 6.


"The entire school is involved in Monarch Madness," says Diedre Austen, magnet coordinator and STEM resource teacher at Lutherville Lab. "Eggs are kept in classrooms throughout the school and even in the front office. We use this as part of our magnet studies. Students practice a lot of observational skills. Students in primary grades learn about life cycles. It even helps us build community throughout the school as students share their related projects in the halls and as we share thoughts and information through our blog."

Students at every grade level had special projects related to the butterflies. Grade 3 students, like Luisa, wrote welcome letters. Some students used their letters to make personal connections with the eggs. Nate asked, "Do you know how to fly yet? I don’t."

Grade 3 students also served as learning buddies working with Grade 1 students on 3D life cycle models. Students in Grade 2 made glue release symmetrical paintings of butterflies during art class. Writing six-word memoirs for the butterflies was a project for students in Grades 4 and 5.

Laura H. wrote, "All I ever do is eat."

Kylee Stamp wrote, ‘Help, I’m stuck in this chrysalis!"

And A.J. imagined that the butterfly might be wondering, "Seriously, why am I in here?"

Other projects included developing sensory booklets in which students had to envision what they would see, smell, taste, and touch if they were butterflies. Songs were sung and poems were written. Videos and informational texts allowed students to further explore the subject.

As the adults emerged from their chrysalides, students and staff tagged the butterflies with stickers from Monarch Watch, an organization based at Kansas University. 

"The students serve as true citizen scientists," says Austen, "as they share school data with the scientists at Monarch Watch so that we can track our butterflies’ migration towards Mexico."

And finally the day came, just as Luisa promised it would, when the butterflies were let go and flew away.

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Story and photos from Deidre Austen, Good News Ambassador, Magnet Coordinator, STEM Resource Teacher, Lutherville Laboratory
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