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Monarch Butterflies: Powerful Pollinators

May 2023

With spring comes the return of many species who sought warmer weather over winter. One of the most fascinating migrations is that of the monarch butterfly. The monarchs we see in Canada spend their winter in Mexico, which means a round trip of over 8000 km – a truly impressive feat!  

Despite their incredible life history, the monarch is an endangered species in Canada. One of the main causes for their decline is the loss of their host plant: milkweed. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of this flowering plant, making it crucial for the survival of the species.   

As pollinators, monarchs play a big role in our ecosystem. This month, we will be looking at activities to help protect monarchs and raise awareness of the importance of pollinators for biodiversity. 
Community Science projects bring together researchers and the general public to undertake large-scale data collection. Your class can help protect monarchs by participating in one of these projects. In this activity, you will find a list of some of these programs in Canada. 

Did you know that Earth Rangers has a whole site dedicated to ready-to-use resources for educators?
This activity and many more can be found on Earth Rangers Homeroom.  

Ma Classe Éco, the French version of homeroom is coming soon! Stay tuned for more information…
Building off student knowledge, discuss pollinators. The questions and resources below can help lead the conversation:

1. What do pollinators do? (How are they a part of a plants life cycle?)
2. Can you name some groups/types? 
3. Why do you think they are important? (For the ecosystem? For us? What would happen if they disappeared?) 

Pollinator Garden – Kids Takeover (Environment and Climate Change Canada) This short video (1:32) by kids for kids explains what pollinators do and why they are important.

All about Pollinators (Espace pour la vie)

With input from students, draw up a list of at least 10 pollinators on the board (for example, bee, butterfly, moth, hummingbird, bat, beetles, flies, wasps, and birds). Split the class into small groups. Explain the rules of charades: the amount of time they have, how to select a pollinator, and what is allowed (gesturing) and not allowed (no sounds).

Once the game is finished, have each group research the favourite plants and the habits of one of the pollinators. The students can create a quiz to share their findings with the class. 

BOOK: Monarch and milkweed by Helen Frost and Leonid Gore (2008, Atheneum Books for Young Readers). This picture book explains why monarchs need milkweed in a way that is accessible to children aged 4-6.  

BOOK: The Monarchs are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery by Rebecca E. Hirsch and (2018, Millbrook Press). Targeting 8-12 years olds, this book covers the discovery of the migratory patterns of monarchs, the reasons they are endangered today, and what can be done to help.
Do you know a teen that might be interested?  For more information or to sign up, click here!

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