Summer School Monarchs!

ss class 09Hi everyone,

I hope you all are having an enjoyable summer vacation. My vacation officially started on Thursday afternoon at 4:01pm. Yippee! Now I don’t have to go back to work for almost 5 weeks.

Summer School was a nice four weeks. I had a group of 16 second and third grade students.  We started off with a few caterpillars and lots and lots of eggs! Students got to see an amazing site–a brand new monarch caterpillar eating its way out of the shell! We observed this phenomena under the microscope, so students could see the little guy munching away. (I hope to have a digital microscope in September so that we can take enlarged photos of this happening!)

The caterpillars soon got fat on their exclusive diet of milkweed. Most of the milkweed came from our newly planted LAS garden. John, my amazing partner in crime, was key in getting my garden into the ground. We worked on many of his days off to till and dig the soil, prepare the beds and plant the milkweed.  Thank you so much, honey!

3 cats

small july 16 double j's

Dara, Julia, Robert and the whole gang were fascinated by the caterpillars. Arianna and Andrea wrote stories about them. Quentin drew diagrams of their life cycles. We watched as the cats grew and grew. As they entered their next stage of life, Vanessa seemed mesmerized as the caterpillars hung upside down in a letter J.

a thing of beauty

On the last day of summer school, the final stage of metamorphosis happened. I placed a ‘tower’ of chrysalides at each group in the classroom. Vanessa quietly and politely came to me and told me it was happening. We all rushed to the tower to observe a new butterfly as it pushed its way out of the now almost transparent chrysalis. Everyone held their breath as the legs came out, then the rest of the butterfly. Yippee! The smiles were on everyone’s faces as each butterfly made its way into the world.

We ended our summer school with new, magical beginnings.

Rather poetic, don’t you think?


At the Refuge! Part II

Alexandra and Stephanie had luck on their side last Friday. All day long the weather looked cloudy, dreary, grey and bleak. It really looked like rain. Will it rain? Will the campfire be canceled? Around 4:30pm the sun finally peeked out from behind the clouds and showed itself.

We had a great time at the Refuge! When we first got there, we walked over to the milkweed patch. There is a large patch of common milkweed in front of the headquarters building. Stephanie, Alexandra and I started turning over leaves looking for signs of monarch caterpillars and eggs. As I scanned the patch, I saw plants that were obviously eaten. “Let’s look there!” We went over to the nibbled on plants and there they were! Four tiny monarch caterpillars, probably first instars. One of them still had the black face mask of a one day old caterpillar. So cool!

Next we went over to the campfire site. Barry, Pete, Christine and Debbie were waiting to start. They are a few of the wonderful people who volunteer for the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. Barry instructed the group of families to take a nature walk first, then come back for the campfire and singing. The girls were very excited and could not contain their smiles. 🙂

We all had a nice walk down to Gull Pond and Gull Pond Tower. See if you can find Gull Pond by clicking on the map here. Along the way we saw many red-winged blackbirds, great egrets and catbirds. The kids never got tired of pointing out another bird. The fog began to roll back in as we made our way back along Gull Pond Road. By the time we got back to the campfire, the fog was in and the temperature had dropped. That was okay because we had the fire and friends to keep us warm. Axavier D. and his mom came and brought marshmallows and sticks on which to roast them. What a nice treat! We sang songs and danced and laughed. Everyone roasted marshmallows and ate their burnt treats until they couldn’t eat anymore. As we started to sing the last song, the gnats found us and started to get in our eyes, ears, noses and hair. Barry noticed our distress and ended the songs.

Pete and the girls dance and sing to the “The Blubber Song.”

Yummy! Nothing tastes quite as good as marshmallows roasted over an open fire.

Everyone had a wonderful time at the Refuge. I hope more of you will visit the Refuge and see for yourself all that it has to offer. Come for a hike or a bike ride. Bring your binoculars and see how many egrets you can see. Take a slow walk down to Gull Pond. Feel the wind blowing across your face. Breathe and listen. Smile.

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