Monarch Butterfly
Arts, Music and Environmental Workshop:

A symbolic migration linking art, environment, and communities.

Monarch Butterfly Arts, Music and Environmental Workshop brings together children of the United States and Mexico.  Every year, children in North America create paper butterflies and send them to the children who live beside the monarch sanctuaries in the Oyamel.  The children of the Oyamel region take care of the butterflies all winter, and in the spring send them back, completing the “migration” of the paper butterflies.  The program teaches about the conservation of the forests and the monarchs, raising environmental awareness, as well as creating a bond between children of two different parts of the world.

The butterflies’ fall flight is timed to correspond with the real monarchs’ journey south. The paper butterflies arrive in Mexico around the time of the Dia de los Muertos (November 2), just as the real monarchs do. According to Mexican legend, these returning butterflies are thought to carry the ancestors’ souls and play a role in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Mexican students from the sanctuary region greet the butterflies and watch over them during the winter months. At the same time in the mountains nearby, the entire eastern population of North American monarch butterflies is resting in Mexico for the winter. Sometime next March, when the real monarchs’ departure from Mexico is announced, the paper butterflies will return. The butterflies will carry a special message from the Mexican students to the students in Canada and U. S. who made them.

Children from the Jamaica Plain KidsArts! summer camp
were able to hold live Monarch Butterflies!!!
During the day long park stewardship workshop

Any donations made through the Monarch Butterfly Arts, Music and Environmental Workshop program go to fund the efforts of the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation, which works to protect both the Oyamel forests and support the people who live around them. Monarch Butterfly Arts, Music and Environmental Workshop is modeled after and supports the Journey North's Symbolic Migration

Every year, millions of monarch butterflies migrate from eastern North America to the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico.  The Oyamel forests are located in the mountains of central Mexico, and their unique ecosystem is essential to the survival of the monarch.  The monarchs spend the winter there, then migrate back north in the spring to lay their eggs on the milkweed plants of North America.

How to Participate in the Monarch Butterfly Arts, Music and Environmental Workshop

Workshops and performances include:

  • Environmental songs, music, puppets and costume performance by Stephen Baird
  • Live Monarch Butterfly, Caterpillar, and Chrysalis (May-August)
  • Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Exhibit and Display
  • Paper Butterflies for Participants.
  • Internet Educational Materials and Resources (See below)
  • Paper Butterfly Exhibit and Optional Paper Butterfly Internet Exhibit of Participants' Paper Butterflies
Workshops and performances fees:
  • One hour performance and workshop.  Participants keep paper butterflies to create art work and send in later. Fee: $400
  • One hour performance and workshop.  Live Monarch Butterfly, Caterpillar, and Chrysalis (May-August).Participants keep paper butterflies to create art work and send in later. Fee: $500
  • Two hour performance and workshop.  Participants create peper butterflies after workshop. Fee: $600
  • Two performances and workshops.  Includes Paper Butterfly Exhibit when they return from Mexico.  Fee: $800
  • Optional Latin-American and Mexican-American music and  dance performances for final exhibit celebration.  Fee: Call
  • Twenty percent of fees is donated to Monarch Butterfly habitat conservation in United States and Mexico.  Additional donations welcomed!

Butterfly Making Instructions:

  • Butterflies should be smaller than 1/2 piece of paper (5 1/2" x 8”).   A template is included if you wish to use it.  Click HERE
  • Should be made entirely from paper. (Please use recycled paper!)
  • Should be flat and have no 3D decorations or glitter.
  • Include student's first name clearly written on each butterfly.
  • Butterflies are ambassadors, and carry messages of support and gratitude to Mexican students, clearly typed.
  • Mail your butterflies and donations to:  Community Arts Advocates, Inc., PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

English/Spanish Phrases to Use on Butterflies
My name is ________
Mi nombre es ________

I am ______ years old.
Tengo _____.

I live in the state of ____________
Vivo en el estado de____________

The name of my school is ________
El nombre de mi escuela es________

I am in ______ grade.
Estoy en______grado.
Thank you for taking care of the monarchs this winter, from your northern neighbors.
Gracias por cuidar a las mariposas monarcas este invierno, de parte de sus vecinos del norte.

Please take care of this butterfly during the long, cold northern winter.
Por favor cuiden a esta mariposa durante el frío y largo invierno del norte.

To help monarch habitat in the north, I planted a butterfly garden.
Para ayudar a mejorar el hábitat de las mariposas monarcas en el norte, planté un jardín de flores.

To help monarchs I raised a real monarch and let it go.
Para ayudar a las mariposas monarca, crié una mariposa de verdad y la dejé en libertad.

Monarch butterflies are shared by the people of Canada, and the United States and Mexico.
Las mariposas monarcas son un recurso natural compartidas por los países de Canada, Estados Unidos y Mexico.

Of all the countries on Earth, Mexico is the 4th richest in biodiversity.
De todos los paises del mundo, México es el cuarto país más rico en biodiversidad.

Copy of Instructions Click HERE

Workshop Event Dates

Butterflies Over Boston, 12th Annual Monarch Butterfly Migration and Summer Solstice Celebration, Sunday, June 17th, 2012. 1-3 PM; Jamaica Pond Gazebo, Pond Street and the Jamaicaway, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; Featuring: Live Monarch chrysalis and caterpillars 1-3 PM; LaPinata - Latin American and Mexican Dance and Music at 2 PM. Info: 617-522-3407 Past events and history of the celebration created by Marianne Donnelly HERE

La Pinata - Latin American Dance and Music - Rosalba Solis, Director

July 4, 2010 -- Butterflies and Barbecue, Fenway Victory Gardens, 2-6 PM, Free

Photo: Stephen Baird

Fenway Garden Society will host a free public event on the Fourth of July. Featuring barbecue lunch, fun contests, musical entertainment by saxophonist Kenji Kikuchi, and a special Monarch butterfly art and conservation workshop, the festival runs from 2-6 pm, rain or shine, and is free and open to the public.

The Monarch Butterfly Art and Conservation Workshop by Emerald Necklace naturalist Stephen Baird will include a paper butterfly contest— both children and adults are welcome to participate! Learn about the Monarch butterfly, see the live butterfly displays, create your own butterfly and discover ways to enhance conservation for this important and beneficial insect.

Fenway Garden Society, P.O. Box 230038, Boston, MA 02123

Monarch Butterflies:

Life Cycle

The monarch butterfly goes through four different stages during its life: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly.  The whole process of going from an egg to a butterfly is called metamorphosis.
  • Egg
The butterfly begins as an egg, which its mother lays underneath the leaves of the milkweed plant.  The egg takes two weeks to develop, and its color changes from yellow to light gray.
  • Caterpillar
At the end of the two weeks, the egg opens and out comes a tiny caterpillar.  The caterpillar does nothing but eat the leaves of the milkweed plant and grow.  The caterpillar grows to be up to two inches long, which it does by shedding its skin several times.  When it is ready, the caterpillar then finds a safe place to undergo the process of becoming a butterfly.  Using a special gland in its mouth, the caterpillar weaves a small silk button underneath a twig or leaf, and then attaches its tail end to the button.

  • Chrysalis
The caterpillar hangs upside down from the button in a J shape.  For up to five hours, it sheds its skin until it looks like a giant green water droplet.  This green outer layer hardens, and the caterpillar is now in the chrysalis stage.  For two weeks the caterpillar is busy transforming inside the chrysalis.

  • Butterfly
At the end of the two weeks, the butterfly has completed its transformation, and the new butterfly emerges from its chrysalis.  It first sits and waits for its wings to dry, then when it is ready, it flies away.

Photographs by Stephen Baird


The monarch butterfly must travel a very long way to make it to Massachusetts and New England.  Every year, tens of millions of monarchs complete the journey from the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico to eastern North America and back, a cycle that takes four generations of monarchs to complete.  The monarchs migrate to Mexico in order to avoid the cold temperatures of the northern winter, but they must fly back every spring because milkweed plants, which are the only food source for the caterpillar, do not grow in the Oyamel forests. Although the butterflies who reach Mexico each year are four generations removed from the butterflies who arrived the previous year, the monarchs always know the way and even stay in the same trees year after year.  A single Oyamel fir tree can be filled with as many as 50,000 butterflies at one time.

  • The Oyamel Fir Forests
The Oyamel fir forests are located in the mountains of central Mexico, covering an area of about 60 square miles. The unique ecosystem of the Oyamel is key to the monarch’s winter survival.  The cool weather enables the butterflies to conserve their energy reserves for the return journey north.  The trees create a buffer to harsh weather such as wind, cold, snow, and rain.  The nearby streams provide a source of water for the monarchs.  The frequent fog and clouds provide moisture to prevent hot temperatures from drying out the monarchs’ bodies.
  • The Threat to the Forests
Unfortunately, the forests, which are essential to the continued survival of the monarch butterfly, are being threatened.  Logging occurs in the area, as local residents of the region cut down the trees of the Oyamel forests for personal and commercial reasons.  In 1986 a presidential decree was passed by the Mexican government that created the “Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca,” or the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve.  This decree created zones of protection in five of the 13 known monarch overwintering sites. However, both illegal and legal cutting still continue, posing a threat to the monarch’s habitat.
  • Looking for a Solution
A solution must be found that addresses both the long-term conservation of the dwindling Oyamel forest and the needs of the people who depend on the forest for survival, allowing both interests to live together in a sustainable manner.  The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation is one group who addresses this problem by focusing on environmental education, economic development, and research.  The project connects the monarchs, those who care about them, and the people of the Oyamel, working towards a solution that addresses the needs of each party.

Fun Facts:

  • Migration Discover Tales -- Dr. Fred Urquhart from Toronto, Canada, spent 40 years looking for the wintering sites of the monarch butterfly.  He developed a small paper wing tag and slowly followed the trail from Canada to Mexico!  Wintering sites were not documented until 1975. 
  • Monarch Butterflies travel between 2 and up to 25 miles an hour with prevailing winds.  They can soar a 100 feet in the air with solar updrafts.  One tagged butterfly traveled over 200 miles in one day!
  • Other names for the Monarch Butterfly
    • Milkweed Butterfly - for the feeding and breeding plant of the Monarch
    • Wanderer - for the migrating aspect
    • King Billy -  Canadian and old pioneer name for the orange and black colors of King Willam of Orange
    • Danaus plexippus - Latin name - "sleepy transformation" and "Greek horse-driver"
    • Seperito - the Otomi-Mazahuas native peoples name for the butterfly that passes during October and November
    • Mariposa Monarca - Spanish name
    • Monarch - The common name “Monarch” was first published in 1874 by Samuel H. Scudder because “it is one of the largest of our butterflies, and rules a vast domain.”


    Links and References

    Monarch - Danaus plexippus (USGS site at University of Montana)

    Monarch Butterfly
    National Wildlife Refuge System
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ARLSQ, MS 570
    4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203

    MONARCH WATCH:  Dedicated to Education, Conservation and Preservation
    Phone: 1-888-TAGGING or 1-913-864-4441 for viewing information
    Write to: Monarch Watch, c/o Orley "Chip" Taylor, Department of Entomology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045

    Phone: 612-339-6959
    Write to: Journey North, 125 North, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    Symbolic Migration which Bring Your Own Butterfly is modeled after and supports

    Karen Oberhauser, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, 1980 Folwell Ave, 200 Hodson Hall, St Paul, MN 55108

    c/o Karen Oberhauser, 2078 Skillman Ave W, Roseville, MN 55113
    E-mail: Web:

    Monarch Monitoring Project - Cape May Bird Obervatory, NJ.  East coast migration gathering  area September- early October

    Monarch Butterfly site with links to videos. University of Florida:

    Massachusetts Butterfly Club - A Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association

    Their photo field guide: Massachusetts Butterfly Species List

    Massachusetts Audubon Butterfly Atlas

    Books and Videos:

    Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle -- web site has fun activities and notes on 40th anniversary events of this classic children's story and illustration book

    Fly, Monarch! Fly! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Inc. 2008  Childrens ages 4-8 learn all about monarchs, milkweed, metamorphosis, and monarch migration.

    The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies NOVA PBS documentary of the 2,000 mile migration

    NOTE:  8 x 10 matted and framed photographs are available for $100 membership donations or 11 x 17 matted and framed photographs are available for $500 membership donations to Community Arts Advocates. Contact Stephen Baird at

    Community Arts Advocates

    PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030

    Stephen Baird, Founder and President


    For translations into different languages -- Arabic, Chinese, Italian, French, German, Russian, Spanish or others visit the web site:

    Community Arts Advocates

    Copyright © 1972-2019 by Stephen Baird