By: Gabrielle Perez
We've all heard of that special week in July, right? Shark Week? More like Shark WEAK compared to LATINO CONSERVATION WEEK. It's a whole week dedicated to connecting Latino communities across the country with the outdoors and educating about the importance of protecting our natural resources. As an Hispanic Access Foundation intern at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, I reached out to an amazing organization in Philadelphia called Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha. They provide various family, housing, health, and community services to the people in their neighborhood. One of the services they offer is a free summer camp for the children in the area.
Heinz Refuge partnered with APM to put on a "Pollination Celebration!" at the Rainbow de Colores playground for the campers. My coworkers and I wanted to teach the kids about the importance of pollinators, with a special focus on monarch butterflies, in a fun and impactful way. Here is how the day went:
Everyone gathered together as we showed them giant displays of bees and butterflies while explaining the actions and impacts of pollinators. Then, the older children got a creative lesson about monarch butterflies during which they learned about their life cycle, characteristics, migration, and the vital role they play in the ecosystems they are a part of. After learning about them, the kids wrote and illustrated short stories in which they imagined themselves as monarch butterflies making their journey to Mexico. The younger children were read a story about a butterfly and his caterpillar cousin, and made their own butterflies out of popsicle sticks, paper, and pipe cleaners.
After both lessons all the kids planted milkweed, the only source of food for monarchs, around the playground! Also, everyone planted a milkweed seed in a small paper cup to take home with them so that they could grow the plant in their yards. This part of the day was so exciting because, for many of the kids, it was their first time planting! The kids left camp that day knowing that bees are not scary, and that butterflies are more than just beautiful.
The staff at Heinz Refuge looks forward to partnering with APM for more events like this to continue to help people learn about and appreciate the organisms around them!