The incredible 2,500 mile migration of the monarch butterfly is a phenomenon that ties all of North America together ecologically, biologically and culturally. Sadly, the number of monarchs as well as their host plant and larvae food source are drastically decreasing. Raising monarch butterflies in the classroom gives students the unique opportunity to become citizen scientists through the study and authentic conservation of something they love. And boy, do Ms. Terranova and Ms. Schnitzler's students love butterflies!
The third grade has been busy raising butterflies and carefully studying their metamorphosis. To the students' delight they have observed caterpillars making chrysalises and butterflies hatching right before their eyes. The class is also reading The Prince of the Butterflies by Bruce Coville to enhance their understanding of the magnificent feat of the monarch migration. The hands-on, kinesthetic nature of their study has blossomed into a multidisciplinary learning experience that extends well beyond science class.
The Grade 3 Monarch Butterly Project has also provided third graders with a unique opportunity for global education through their participation in a symbolic migration. Students made realistic monarch butterflies from paper that were tagged and labeled with their names and school, and sent them to a school in Mexico. In the spring, paper monarchs will be sent back to Princeton Academy and students will be able to track the butterflies' journey north.
On campus, third graders have expanded their study to outside of the classroom with the planting of a milkweed monarch garden. Milkweed is the host plant necessary for monarchs to lay their eggs and feed their larvae. In addition to milkweed, the garden includes pollinator flowers so fall migratory monarchs can drink their nectar and strengthen themselves for the long journey to Mexico. The class is also winterizing milkweed seeds provided by a first grade family's garden - a true testament to Goal IV and building community. The seeds are being harvested in the refrigerator for 30 days and then students will plant them in school and watch them grow. Hopefully, they will be ready in the spring for planting and the boys will look for caterpillars that they can raise and release again before the school year is out.
Headmaster Rik Dugan states, "One look at our boys and their care during this process affirms the sweetness within. This moment integrates all disciplines with a hands-on experiential core, while enabling for reflection and celebration of nature and culture – this is Princeton Academy."
The Grade 3 Monarch Butterfly Project was inspired by Lead Classroom Teacher Christine Terranova and her professional development experience with the Monarch Teachers' Network at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. Ms. Terranova and Ms. Schnitzler plan to use this project to apply for qualification as an eco-school through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The Eco-Schools program strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening curriculum and enhancing science and academic achievement. Additionally, it works to foster a greater sense of environmental stewardship among youth.
Classes at Princeton Academy are specially geared toward research-based methods regarding how boys learn best. Kinesthetic learning opportunities can be found throughout the day. Research shows that boys need to be comfortable in their space, but also have freedom to move around that space within boundaries. Students begin each day with a run around campus, which is comprised of nearly 50 acres, including grasslands for exploration in science classes and vintage Princetonian buildings.