How can a Monarch Butterfly survive in Colorado during the Winter?

By building a habitat!

The first grade class of Rocky Mountain Elementary began the school year off like most students, by learning about bugs. The biggest difference this year is that students learned about bugs, insects, habitats, and adaptations in their math groups, reading groups, language and writing time. All three of the first grade teachers worked diligently over the summer to create an integrated unit based on the common core standards in reading, writing, math and science to teach a seamless unit focused on science content. "It was hard work trying to get science content into all of our core subjects, but in the end it will benefit students and we already know how to make the unit better for next year," says first grade teacher Courtney Tucker.

The students learned all about insects, antennae, habitats, nectar and anything else you can think of about insects in both English and Spanish. They practiced their language skills while discussing the characteristics of bugs. They counted and added the number of legs on different insects. They also compared and contrasted different insects through discussions in book group and then wrote about their thoughts.

While reading about insects, some students discovered that Monarch butterflies migrate from Colorado to Mexico every year. They learned that many Monarch butterflies do not survive the journey due to predators or fatigue. This revelation made many of the students sad. So their teachers asked, "How can we help the Monarch butterflies?" The students responded buy saying, "We could build a habitat!"

So the students and teachers conducted research to find out what the Monarch butterfly needs to survive. Then, students went through the Design Thinking Process to plan and build a habitat. Groups of four were formed and discussions began immediately. "I think the butterfly should have a place to sit down." "I think the butterfly needs a place to hide from birds." Those are some examples of sentiments heard during group discussion. When the students built a protoype of the habitat, it became clear that the students understood what the Monarch butterly needed to survive in Colorado during the winter. It was also apparent that there are many creative minds at Rocky Mountain Elementary and that this was the perfect project to kick start their creativity for the year. 

When all was said and done, the students presented their projects to gather feedback from their peers. The majority of the projects had some sort of heating source, a way to hide from predators and a way to provide nectar. A creative way to keep the butterfly safe from inherent danger was to build an alarm system triggerd by motion. Anytime a predator would come near the habitat, the alarm would trigger notifying the butterfly to find a safe place within the habitat. 

"The students enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. We will continue to build on this unit to make it the best we can for our students." said first grade teacher Cynthia Montanez at the end of the unit. The students at Rocky Mountain Elementary learned a great deal about insects by creating, analyzing, researching, and best of all, having fun.