Discovery Station teaches kids about monarch butterflies
Kids in Washington County and the surrounding area can get involved in protecting and nurturing the monarch butterfly through a monthly program at Discovery Station.
The downtown Hagerstown children’s museum partnered with The Monarch Alliance to host monthly programs that encourage children of all ages to get involved in citizen science and monarch conservation, according to Brittany Wedd, Discovery Station’s director of operations.
“We’ve partnered with them before in the past on several programs that we do. And last year we had a monarch display here where we raised monarchs and then tagged them and then released them,” Wedd said.
The Junior Monarch Alliance meets the third Saturday of each month. This Saturday, April 15, the topic will be the monarch’s life cycle, the trail of the monarch and their migration pattern as they head north and east into the area during the late spring.
“Toward the end of May is when we’ll start seeing monarchs in our area so we’ll start educating (kids) about what they can see if they go out into the field, as far as larvae and eggs. And then how to identify the different types of plants that monarchs eat,” she said.
Monarch Conservation is incredibly important for a number of reasons,” Wedd said.
“The migration of this species is in danger of disappearing because of the loss of milkweed and nectar sources throughout its breeding range. By educating children on the life cycle of the monarch and the threats related to its migration, we have a greater chance of saving the monarch,” she said. “If we can touch their hearts and inspire them to be citizen scientists, they will develop better methods to save endangered pollinators like the monarch butterfly.”
Monarchs are quite significant because they lay eggs on milkweed plants that hatch into baby caterpillars, also called larvae. The baby caterpillar eats the milkweed and then after about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully grown and finds a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis.
After about 10 days, the monarch will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and enjoying the short life it has left — about two to six weeks, according to information at www.monarch-butterfly.com.
Wedd said that all children are welcome to attend the program, but the usual audience is “typically primary school from third to fifth grade I would say. We’ve had some younger kids in (too),” She added that as many as 25 students have attended the sessions.
Another draw for students is raising monarchs, which Wedd plans to do again.
“We are currently in the process of building another enclosure. I think we’re going to go for a little bit larger space this year. And then we’ll do weekly tagging demonstrations, so we can teach kids how to identify what gender the monarch butterfly is and then show them how they can tag monarchs at home and what that does is it helps scientists from all over the country learn more about the migration patterns for the monarch,” she said.
Participation in the program is free with paid museum admission, $7 for adults; $6 for ages 4 to 17.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout this weekend,” Wedd said.