A Tale of a Trail-blazing Monarch

It all began a year ago when a Monarch butterfly emerged from his chrysalis on September 16, 2016. Two hundred Sisters Middle School (SMS) students in Sisters, Oregon watched him pump up and dry his wings. The next day a small numbered sticker (a tag) was stuck to his left rear wing and he was released into the air by a student who named him Journey.

On release, Journey took flight, looped around the soccer field, turned south and succeeded in flying all the way to Carpinteria, California, 800 plus miles away.

On November 11, 2016, Journey’s tag number was spotted by a visiting Arizona Monarch naturalist. He reported Journey’s tag number to Dr. David James, director of Washington State Universities’ Monarch tracking program, and it was determined that Journey had made the longest recorded migration of an Oregon tagged Monarch butterfly.

Susie Werts — a dedicated teacher and ardent supporter for wildlife protection — knew that hands-on, innovative instruction was the best way to make a difference and engage her middle school reading students. Letting them dig in the dirt and plant milkweed in the newly created Monarch waystation gave the students a personal stake in the success of the garden and its butterfly guests.

SMS students water their Monarch waystation. Photo credit: Conan Tigard

While teaching the basics of reading and writing to her students, the Oregon educator initiated and created a certified Monarch butterfly waystation in fall 2016 in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and members of the Monarch Advocates of Central Oregon and Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates. Students from elementary to high school in the Sisters community pitched in to help.

Morgan Parks, Education Coordinator with National Wildlife Federation, having met Werts at the Daughters of the American Revolution State Convention, where Werts was being honored with a Conservation Medal for her monarch education accomplishments, encouraged SMS to certify as a Schoolyard Habitat and register with Eco-Schools USA. Now a new schoolyard sign is proudly displayed in the monarch waystation showcasing their commitment to providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Kellen Werts reads about the Monarch he raised and named Journey. Photo credit: Will Werts

In addition to the waystation, teacher Werts developed integrated curriculum that taught her students about the threatened butterflies and the perils they face. The remarkable success of this creative effort has been memorialized in an imaginative book, Journey’s Flight, which re-created that record-setting migration as imagined by the students and is now available on amazon.com.

Journey’s Flight is a heartwarming story. Students took what they had learned about Monarchs and captured the heart of a butterfly bringing Journey and his migration saga to life including both the perils and joys. By the time you finish their imaginative story you wonder how any Monarch butterfly manages to complete the migration.

Hummingbird and Monarch painting featured in Journey’s Flight. Artwork credit: Jean Russell Nave

Excerpt from Chapter 2, page 16 of Journey’s Flight:

     Journey settled into following the gray river that was the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 97. About five miles south of Bend he paused to feed on some rabbitbrush.

   SWOOSH! A green and red flash buzzed near him and then hovered in the air just a foot away. Journey was intrigued. He was a good flyer but he couldn’t hover like a hummingbird with his wings beating up to 80 times a second.

   The hummingbird dipped and bobbed and darted away. Fascinated, Journey followed him as he flew up and across the divided highway.

   Focused on the hummingbird, Journey began to cross the highway just above the roadbed. Suddenly a roaring thunder engulfed him. The sun disappeared as he was sucked under a mammoth truck. He tumbled in the air two, three, four times and was spit out the back of the truck as it rumbled down the highway.

   Disoriented after nearly being killed by the truck, Journey looked for the hummingbird and saw it flying up another road on the far side of the second lane. He quickly ascended high enough to avoid another truck and followed the darting bird.

“Both of these innovative conservation projects — the waystation and writing a book — have been supported by numerous community members, generous individual and corporate contributors, and chronicled in various news articles in our local newspapers. Those of us involved share a common goal of raising awareness for Monarch butterfly conservation,” said teacher Werts. “By telling Journey’s story, we believe that we can more effectively spread the word about Monarch butterflies, the perils they face and the critical importance of their preservation.”

When you buy a copy of Journey’s Flight from amazon books, all profits support the Sisters Middle School Monarch Conservation Project. If you have a Monarch butterfly story that you would like posted on Journey’s Flight facebook page, please send it to harryandlolabooks@gmail.com.

Click the button below to learn how your school can incorporate Monarch education into classroom activities through the National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Mission curriculum.

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Jean Russel Nave- Author, Illustrator and Publisher

Jean Russell Nave’s professional career began in computer sales, then motivational speaking and was a television host of two non-fiction series. She had five published books before retiring in the late 1990s, never expecting to write again. In 2002 the local fire chief asked Jean to write a book about a wildfire that destroyed homes where she lived. Later she wrote and illustrated five children’s books to raise money for Scottish terrier rescue. A few years ago, teacher Susie Werts asked Jean to work with her special reading education students publishing books with the student’s stories. Most recently Ms. Werts asked Jean to help with Journey’s Flight.

 

 

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