Pierce Street students learn about monarchs and milkweed

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Butterflies will be fluttering in the neighborhood around Pierce Street Elementary School this summer.
About 160 fourth-graders at the school were each given a monarch butterfly and a milkweed plant as they left school Wednesday.
They also received a lesson from Master Gardeners Lee Pryor Caldwell and Reggie Rose about monarchs and how to care for their milkweed plants.
“We are trying to just teach the children the relationship between ourselves and the environment,” Rose said. “We have such a connection with our environment and plants and animals.”
The butterflies came in small envelopes, and the students were told to release them near their homes. They came from a place in Georgia that had briefly refrigerated the insects to allow them to temporarily live inside the envelopes.
The milkweed, which is the only type of plant that monarchs use to lay their eggs, was to be planted near the students’ homes.
The butterflies will remain near the spot where they were released for several weeks, Rose said.
The event was a joint venture of the Tupelo Garden Club, Pierce Street’s Parent Teacher Organization and the Master Gardeners.
“This is one of the most fun things we’ve done all year,” said Caldwell, who also represented the Tupelo Garden Club.
The students learned about the life cycle of the monarchs, known as the king of butterflies because of their ornate appearance. Rose and Caldwell also told them about the butterflies’ annual migration to Southern California and Mexico and about scientists’ concerns that a loss of milkweed plants will lead to a decline of monarchs.
“One of the reasons that we want to teach them about butterflies as pollinators is that the habitat of butterflies is disappearing,” Rose said. “We’re trying to do things to instill some of that knowledge so we are not so careless with what we do.”
Rose has been teaching regular science lessons to the Pierce Street fourth-graders and to Lawhon Elementary third-graders throughout the year.
“If they remember that when they were children, these people helped them learn something, then maybe when they are adults, they will do something for younger generations,” Rose said.
Caldwell said they also wanted to instill a sense of amazement.
“We hope to give them an awareness and an appreciation of the wonders and miracles of nature,” she said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.