Caterpillar Condos tap monarch butterfly migration for kids’ hands-on nature lessons

San Antonio area 1st-4th graders will be able to tap the monarch butterfly migration for a hands-on learning experience this fall as 75 “Caterpillar Condos” make their way to Title I educators in the San Antonio area in September.

The program, a partnership of the Texas Butterfly Ranch and Blooming with Birdie, and part of the 7th annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, launched in 2020 during the COVID edition of the Festival and continues to expand.

“Thanks to generous support from Valero, the condos will be FREE to educators and students and, for the first time, available in both Spanish and English,” said Ashley Bird, Festival manager and founder of Blooming with Birdie.

Ashley Bird, “Birdie,” of the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival and Blooming with Birdie

The program kicks off September 24, when 75 first – fourth grade San Antonio teachers– including librarians, special-ed and other educators–can participate in a FREE monarch teacher training session at the Witte Museum. 

Following the instruction, educators will be awarded a Caterpillar Condo for their classrooms–a pop-up cage, milkweed plant, two monarch caterpillars, and two tags for a citizen science activity. This year, teachers will also receive a gas gift card, supplies, and a monarch migration poster, courtesy of Valero. 

The following week, their classes can enjoy digital  lessons led by Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival manager Ashley Bird, also known as “Birdie” of Blooming with Birdie.

A certified Montessori school teacher, Bird has developed a virtual curriculum–four hands-on, TEKS aligned video lessons that address What is a Monarch? What is Metamorphosis? What is the Monarch Migration? and, What is Community Science?

The program requires only an hour per week from teachers, as Birdie does most of the heavy lifting, leaving teachers to handle the “the fun, hands-on stuff”–including guiding the kids through the stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle.

Bonnie Cavazos, a librarian at Hawthorne Academy and repeat participant in the Caterpillar Condo program, shared that the experience gives students a chance to share their observations with others and become citizen scientists. Hear more from Cavazos here. 

The timing of the Caterpillar Condos in Classrooms coincides with peak monarch migration season in San Antonio, generally October 10 – 22 when thousands of citizen scientists across the country tag monarch butterflies in a collective effort organized by Monarch Watch to learn more about the butterflies’ unique migration. 

“The goal is for these butterflies raised by our students to join the migration south to Mexico.” said Bird. 

Birdie and students observe a monarch caterpillar inside its caterpillar condo. Photo courtesy of Walley Films.

“This is the future of education,” said Cheri Tondre, a gifted and talented education instructional specialist for the San Antonio Independent School District. Tondre has helped distribute the condos since the program’s inception in 2020. “What makes it great is that it’s real world, it’s relevant, it gets kids outdoors, engaged in their community and the world around them.”

Jeremiah Birmingham, a teacher at San Antonio’s Advanced Learning Academy, agreed that making STEM education accessible and approachable to all students is crucial to educating the next generation.

“Watching a living caterpillar grow and transform is so much more powerful than looking at charts and coloring pictures,” said Birmingham, who taught the caterpillar condo program last year to 132 students. “The Condo program opens the door for our students to actively participate in the scientific process of citizen science,” he said.

The deadline for teachers to apply is September 9. Application here

Not a teacher but still want a caterpillar condo for you kid? Click here.

TOP PHOTO: A student appreciates a monarch caterpillar during last year’s Caterpillar Condo project. Photo courtesy Melissa Stokes. 

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One Comment

  1. Letitia Knipe August 30, 2022 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Great article about teaching STE to kids using the Monarch butterfly.

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