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Exploring New Cultures by Tracking Migration Patterns

In a unique blend of world languages and science education, second-grade students in Señora Giraldo’s Spanish class at the Junior School recently embarked on an extraordinary journey into the world of monarch butterflies and their significance in the Día de los Muertos celebration.

The project, inspired by the story "Monarca va a Michoacán," allowed students to explore the deep-rooted cultural ties between the Día de los Muertos festival and the annual migration of monarch butterflies. The students’ exploration was part of a broader initiative in partnership with Journey North—a citizen science program that involves participants in tracking wildlife migration and seasonal changes—and their Symbolic Migration Project.

The Symbolic Migration Project is an international effort that aims to create awareness and foster conservation efforts for the monarch butterfly, a species currently facing significant population declines. Each year, millions of monarchs travel across North America in a breathtaking natural phenomenon. However, their eastern and western populations are dwindling, prompting action across Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

In this conservation endeavor, students from Shady Side Academy and other participating schools in the U.S. and Canada create life-sized paper butterflies, known as Symbolic Ambassador Monarch Butterflies. These paper creations are then sent to schools located near the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Central Mexico. This gesture of goodwill and education is reciprocated in the spring when students in Mexico send back different paper butterflies, accompanied by personal letters, to their counterparts in North America.

Through this symbolic exchange, the project not only educates students about the importance of conservation but also fosters cross-cultural communication and cooperation. The initiative is a metaphor for the monarchs' awe-inspiring migration to Mexico in the autumn and their return journey north in the spring.

Señora Giraldo and her students' commitment to environmental stewardship and the celebration of cultural diversity and international unity exemplify how education can transcend traditional classroom boundaries, turning young students into global citizens and environmental advocates. By engaging in this symbolic migration, Señora Giraldo’s second-grade students are learning valuable lessons about ecology, cultural heritage, and the power of international collaboration.


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