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NSA students assist migrating butterflies

October 19, 2012
By JACKIE STARK - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Students in North Star Academy's Community Environmental Education program helped out the famous migration of the monarch butterfly this month by traveling to the Stonington Peninsula and planting hundreds of black-eyed susans.

The students had a blast, according to North Star classroom aide Michele Talsma, who accompanied the group of about 20 middle schoolers on the daylong trip.

"It's really interesting, what they learned about the monarch butterfly," Talsma said.

Article Photos

Students from North Star Academy recently traveled to the Stonington Peninsula to plant black-eyed susans, which are used by monarch butterflies, like the one shown above, during their migration from the Upper Peninsula to Mexico. (AP photo)

While most people think of milkweed as an important plant in the butterflies massive migration, black-eyed susans also attract the iconic butterfly during its flight south to Mexico.

Talsma said one of the most surprising facts the kids learned about the monarch's migration was that it's very different from that of birds, which head south for the winter and then return north once warmer weather hits.

The monarch butterfly's migration actually takes place over several generations, so the butterflies that once visited the area most likely will never return.

The students also learned about the many hazards the butterflies face as they travel such long distances.

"Something as simple as a vehicle (can be dangerous)," Talsma said.

The students also earned a new appreciation for rocks and the information they can contain.

"One student found a piece of limestone with a fossil in it," Talsma said. "It was basically a scavenger hunt for limestone after that."

The butterflies have been known to congregate on the Stonington Peninsula for years, most likely because of its proximity to Lake Michigan. It's the last stop on land before Lake Michigan as the butterflies fly south, affording them a chance to stop for a break of sorts before continuing their long journey.

The CEEP program at North Star is offered to the seventh- and eighth-graders, with an emphasis on the water cycle for seventh-graders and on Earth science for eighth-graders.

Talsma said the monarch project on the Stonington Peninsula was a great way to combine both of those focal points in the curriculum with a hands-on learning experience.

"They got a real understanding of the date of the Earth itself as well as the water cycle," Talsma said.

The planting was hosted by the Hiawatha National Forest.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.



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