In many world cultures, butterflies are a source of inspiration and delight. Because local butterflies migrate to Mexico in winter and then return to Chicago, they make a fitting symbol for the immigrant journey of many clients at El Valor Cantu Family and Childcare Center, a Latino-based organization working to improve communities. And because National Louis University has had a partnership with El Valor since 2009, several NLU faculty and staff attended El Valor’s monarch butterfly event on Sept. 12.
The primary goal of the partnership is to develop the skills of individuals from Chicago’s Latino community and assist these individuals in preparing to take on leadership roles in corporations, government, community-based organizations and any field finding itself with an increasingly diverse customer or constituent base.
NLU has involved nine faculty members and 35 other instructors who provided 104 courses on site toward NLU’s MBA, education and human services degrees. Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., associate professor of Early Childhood Education, who was among those visiting on butterfly day, was recently voted in as an El Valor board member.
A highlight of the fall festival was the release of 100 monarch butterflies in celebration of the year-long program. These distinctive monarch butterflies are a significant cultural symbol for immigrants from Mexico and are part of the aim to strengthen its STEM-based learning and parental involvement for the El Valor community. El Valor has provided an engaging learning environment for families through the utilization of these butterflies, including an opportunity to raise them at home, along with combining active exploration activities among El Valor educators and 800 students in both the classroom and schoolyard throughout the year.
Butterflies and STEM
El Valor and US Forest Service International Programs have established a partnership since 2009 utilizing the monarch butterflies as key learning tools for El Valor’s birth-to-5 Early Head Start and Head Start programs. The partnership and program have provided an increase in school preparation, encouraged vocabulary acquisition, and stimulated an increase for environmental science and its STEM-based learning curriculum while promoting positive community engagement and parental involvement in Mexican-American communities across Chicago.
Recent 2014 reports indicate that fewer monarch butterflies are migrating back to Mexico because of the decline of milkweed, the only plant for which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, while serving as a primary food source for monarch caterpillars, in the United States.
In 2004, an estimated 550 million completed the winter migration, while in 2013 only 33 million arrived. Over the past several years, there was a dramatic 43.7 percent decrease of butterflies to Mexico. These reports show a grave concern for conservationists as monarchs have long been considered both an indicator of ecological health and a representative of pollinator populations.
NLU looks forward to continuing the partnership with the El Valor Cantu Early Childhood Center. The butterfly event was a wonderful celebration of the yearlong study of the monarch butterflies and the entire El Valor community.
Ayn Keneman and Ruth Davis contributed to this blog.