An Exercise in Active Learning (Grades 2-4)
As the sun went down, a cool breeze began to blow across the damp meadow. The solitary Monarch needed to find shelter for the night. She could not stay in the open until morning.(1) She found a resting place under some broad green leaves. They would keep out the cool night air. Slowly, quiet settled over the meadow as many of nature's creatures went to sleep for the night. The Monarch had work to do and only a short while to do it. But, for now, she could do nothing more. She would begin her work again tomorrow.
The beginning of a new day was announced by the creatures around the Monarch. The meadow came to life as the sun peeked over the horizon. As soon as the rays of the sun broadened their reach and their warmth found her resting place, she spread her wings and absorbed the energy of the sun before she fluttered out into the bright morning.
The Monarch's body was heavy with the eggs she was carrying and she needed to find them a home. She could smell the sweet flowers in the meadow. They would provide her with strength for the day's work ahead. As she flew from blossom to blossom sucking up the tasty nectar, her energy was renewed and she began her search for a place to lay her eggs.
She twisted and turned as she flew about the sunny meadow. She observed a small girl below following her about. Fascinated, the girl watched as the Monarch floated across the meadow. The child reached for the Monarch several times with a net but she flew rapidly away with bursts of speed and slow glides. Her flight was too quick and erratic and the girl soon gave up the chase and watched the Monarch go.
The Monarch flitted from plant to plant, touching down lightly for a second and then, like a leaf blown in the wind, was off again until finally she discovered a patch of milkweed.(2) This seemed to be a promising place to begin her contribution to the next generation.
Sitting in the bright morning sun she was a brilliant sight. Bright orange flashes of color contrasted with the dark veins on her wings like a stained glass window.
Having found the milkweed patch she began searching for places to lay her eggs. She stopped on a plant and quickly tapped it with her first pair of legs.(2) She curled her abdomen under the edge. There she deposited an egg on the soft fuzz of the leaf's underside. It was a small item no larger than the head of a pin and it sparkled in the daylight like a tiny jewel. Each cone-shaped egg the Monarch laid on the leaves was stuck to a leaf so well it would not roll off or even blow away.
It was important for the Monarch to move from one milkweed patch to another to deposit her eggs. She darted about fluttering higher and slowly gliding down again on a new leaf. As she was busy laying her eggs, she was observed by a predator. A young bird, just learning what to feed upon, swooped down upon her and grabbed her by her wings but just as quickly released her from its grasp as if she was distasteful.(3) Whew! It had been a close call. Her wing had been badly torn in the encounter but she managed to continue on about her work. She was preprogrammed for this job of reproducing more of her own kind.
As the week came to an end, dark storm clouds rolled across the meadow and a fierce wind began to blow. Without warning huge drops of rain began to fall, beating against her paper thin wings. Tired, the Monarch found refuge under the overhanging branches of a small bush. The bushes were whipped by wind and hail as the storm raged through the night.
When morning came, the cool, damp meadow began once again to greet a new day. The solitary Monarch stirred slightly, she had been knocked to the ground by the hail and her fragile wings - once bright with color- were wet and battered. Every movement required great effort. Where was the sun? She needed it now more than she ever had. Her wings did not want to work. She could struggle no more. Her wings closed for the last time as the solitary Monarch slipped off the leaf and fluttered helplessly to the damp earth below.