Over this past Memorial Day weekend (May 2018), I was sitting on the porch having a casual conversation with my 1st grade grandson.
He was lazily enjoying the warm weather, laying in the porch swing. With his feet, he was pushing the chains to glide the swing across the porch.
Various birds were moving about the woods to the feeders, some taking to the water of the bird bath. The visitors soon became part of the conversation.
The first to enter the discussion was the robin. He was curious of the colors of its back.
“My Favorite Bird”
Following this, and without any prodding, he offered that his favorite bird was a blue jay. I asked why, to which he responded “It’s blue”.
Using my iphone, I showed him the Indigo Bunting, a different shade of blue, which he hadn’t seen. Although it was of interest, the blue jay still took first place.
Listening To Their Songs
Using “Peterson’s, Birds of North America” app on my phone (which works great), I played a few of the songs of the birds we were observing.
We then tried to identify the bird in the distant tree. This didn’t always work!
Monarch caterpillar feeding on milkweed leaves prior to creating a chrysalis in mid-September within the Pike Lake Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Hartford, Wisconsin
At some point during our conversation, while still moving the swing gently across the porch, he told me about his experience with monarch butterflies.
Each fall his family finds a few monarch caterpillars crawling on milkweed leaves. Placing the caterpillars in a screened container with the leaves, the kids are able to witness the transformation of the caterpillar, to chrysalis, and then to the brightly colored monarch butterfly.
Just before release, each of the kids might get a chance to hold it on their finger (if it will let them!). They’ll give it a name, and then off it flies, a world with a completely new perspective.
During this part of our conversation, what was most interesting was he knew the different life cycle stages.
A recently formed chrysalis affixed to the underside of the park office porch by a monarch caterpillar in mid-September within the Pike Lake Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Hartford, Wisconsin
A Teaching Moment
Then an idea hit. I asked if he was aware milkweed was poisonous to humans. Yes, he was. Most importantly, he also knew of its importance to the survival of the monarch, being its’ vital food source.
I was very pleased to learn that he was well aware of this.
Whose Value We May Not Know
The “teaching moment” was just around the corner.
“Look at the value”, I offered, “of the milkweed to the monarch. If we destroyed the milkweed as having no value, we would also destroy the monarchs. Something we view as having no value, may in fact be of great benefit to another”.
Monarch butterfly stretching its wings as it feeds off a purple coneflower within the Pike Lake Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin, in mid-August
Our conversation continued on this vein for a few more minutes, and then drifted to another subject.
Coming from a young guy that enjoys video games, it was most rewarding hearing him articulate this concept in his own way. Hopefully, our short discussion will help him find purpose in many things in his future.
The porch swing, on that hot day in May, served its purpose very well.