At Christ the King School s monarch butterfly station this spring, students have learned all about the regal insects, including the various colors of their wings, the flowers that attract them, their eating and egg-laying preferences, and the stages of their lives.
And when I went to the school one morning last week to hear about this entomology education, I learned something about monarchs too: They don t like cool weather.
So while students, teachers, a photographer, and I converged on the garden along the south wall of Christ the King Church in West Toledo, the butterflies were nowhere to be found.
Presumably, they had huddled up in some warmer place instead, waiting for a sunnier day.
The Wings of Heaven garden s brilliant flowers the red and yellow marigolds, the golden lilies of the valley, the petunias and daisies, just to name a few will wait, at least a little while, for the butterflies return.
But Nick Aubry, a kindergartner, assured me that on a nicer day, I would be sure to see butterflies there.
We learned how many kinds of butterflies there are, he said. You can see all the different colors of butterflies. You can see them sitting on the plants.
The butterflies camouflage well in the brightly colored flowers, Nick added. Sometimes what looks like a monarch is just a flower petal and sometimes what looks like a flower petal suddenly takes flight.
The butterfly station also features milkweed, which I was told the monarchs favor both for noshing and for depositing their eggs; butterfly bush, which I presume is aptly named; and catnip, which on my visit day showed no evidence of attracting any cats, though I suspect any neighborhood cats who discovered it also would have a blast swatting their paws at fluttering butterflies.
Maybe the cats stay home on days when the butterflies aren t there.
Marcia Wright, a kindergarten teacher, said the butterfly garden has provided her and her colleagues with teaching opportunities in several subject areas, including math, writing, and science.
We ve been graphing how many butterflies there are, the various sizes, and write about what we see, Mrs. Wright said.
The garden s plants are another thing the children can observe, analyze, and write about, she said.
For the sixth graders, the butterfly curriculum is more science-focused, teacher Carrie Alvarado said.
We look at butterfly slides under the microscope, we talk about different living things and nutrition using butterflies as an example, she said.
And no, Ms. Alvarado assured me, the microscope slides came from a science vendor, not from the garden s butterflies. There are no butterfly dissections at Christ the King.
The school established the garden at the behest of Leta and Vito Boraggina, the parents of current and former Christ the King students who established a similar monarch station at their Temperance home. The Boragginas built Christ the King s station using plants and mulch donated by several local businesses.
School principal Karen Malcolm said the monarch station has involved the whole Christ the King parish and has been an invaluable experience for the children.
Anytime you can have a hands-on, authentic experience for the kids, it s just outstanding for them, she said. It s one thing to see something in a cage, another to see it in its natural environment.
Mrs. Wright said the most revealing moment for her was one recent sunny day when the kindergartners butterfly garden visit occurred right before recess. When it was time to go to the playground, they stayed, she said. We lost recess time because they just wanted to stay and watch it.
Talking with a newspaper reporter didn t appeal to the children nearly as much. With the butterflies staying away on a cool, cloudy morning, the kids sprinted for the playscape the instant I said the interviews were done.