After catching the afternoon performance of "The Three Javelinas" at the Magik Theatre Friday, more than 60 area elementary children had the opportunity to learn about the Monarch butterfly at Yanaguana Garden.
The interactive learning experience that focused on the Monarch's migration, metamorphosis, and milkweed – the Monarch's reproductive habitat and only plant on which its larvae feed – was organized and facilitated by UTSA and BASF Corporation, a chemical producer and marketer that combines "economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility."
With arts and crafts, interactive games, and wearable Monarch butterfly wings to get into the spirit, UTSA researchers and educational specialists familiarized the wide-eyed students with the Texas state insect that travels through San Antonio on its migration path north from Mexico to Canada and back again.
Scientists say that the insect's migration routes could be threatened by climate change and other environmental issues, which would have wide reaching effects on the ecosystem.
"[The Monarch butterfly is] a gateway pollinator. If we save the butterflies we're saving the bees, the bats, the other pollinators," said Julian Chavez, UTSA research science associate and educational specialist.
Over the past few years, San Antonio has only grown in its support of the Monarchs. In 2015, Mayor Ivy Taylor signed the National Wildlife Federation's Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, making the city the first in the United States to become a Monarch Champion City. This has led to San Antonio implementing programs to increase Monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat throughout the city.
While such initiatives are already in place to protect the winged pollinators, exposing children to the importance of conserving the butterflies and their habitat will help ensure those practices continue for years to come, Chavez said.
"Starting them young is so important because they're generating so much interest," he said. "I want to make sure that this generation that I'm teaching about butterflies that their children will be able to see the butterflies, too.
"It's important to let kids know that there is a problem that we're working on and that we will fix."
Through its Living Acres initiative, BASF also helps restore the monarch butterfly population by raising awareness about their population decline and by providing actionable steps for individuals and farmers to grow milkweed. Partnering with UTSA for Friday's event was an other way for the company to collaborate with the community in their efforts.
Families and individuals can learn more about the Monarchs and local conservation efforts at the San Antonio Zoo's 2017 Monarch Fest, which will take place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Attendees of all ages can receive free milkweed seeds, participate in games and crafts, and learn how to help Monarch butterflies thrive in San Antonio and beyond.