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Students give freedom to more than 70 butterflies

Willsboro Central School third-grader Kaili Bourdeau helps release butterflies as part of a project in Lorilee Sheehan’s classroom.

Willsboro Central School third-grader Kaili Bourdeau helps release butterflies as part of a project in Lorilee Sheehan’s classroom. Photo by Katherine Clark.

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— Students waved goodbye to the more than 70 monarch butterflies on Sept. 17, most of whom were named Bob.

Lorilee Sheehan’s third-grade class have monitored and cared for the monarch caterpillars since they began school as part of their life cycle class.

For Sheehan, who has been doing this workshop with her third-grade students every year for the past 27 years, the number of butterflies was slightly higher than other years.

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“One year we had a butterfly for each of my 18 students to release,” Sheehan said. “We’ve never found that many; we just happened to find a field that was plentiful with caterpillars.”

In a fresh-cut field in Whallonsburg, Sheehan said she found a high population of the monarch caterpillars with a co-worker. She said she isn’t sure if it was the fresh-cut field or the short milkweed that attracted the caterpillars, but it was a happy surprise.

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Sheehan said she had to retire the small plastic butterfly container she used in the past for a larger scale home for the monarch caterpillars, which found their home in a washing machine cardboard box with screens for students to watch.

The caterpillars, which were gathered on Labor Day, had transformed into their chrysalises and emerged as butterflies.

Sheehan said her students were able to release the first four butterflies of the group on Sept. 14.

With the butterfly project, students get personally involved in their science lessons. Sheehan said students watch the caterpillars transform before their eyes, from long, yellow-white-and-black bodies into shimmering green chrysalises and emerge into a flighted specimen. Sheehan said students were involved with taking care of the many monarchs over the past few weeks.

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“We needed to feed the monarchs twice a day, they will only eat fresh milkweed so the students worked with me to identify which milkweed plants were not good anymore. The plants themselves are only good for about 24 hours,” Sheehan said.

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