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Save the Monarchs

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Picture it: Indianapolis. Saturday, April 25. A (hopefully) sunny afternoon. Dozens of elementary school kids wearing handmade butterfly wings fashioned from repurposed materials -- namely polystyrene lunch trays and VHS tapes -- that will be created with help from students at Project Libertas. A parade along the city's Cultural Trail between the Earth Day Indiana festival and the Artsgarden. At the kids' destination a short play about monarch butterflies, created by 6- and 7-year-old students from The Children's House.

With reverence in his voice, Jim Poyser, executive director of Earth Charter Indiana, says, "I think it may be the most fun day of my life."

Elementary school students have grown up in an Indiana that is mostly void of monarchs. This butterfly's population has fallen by 90 percent since 1995. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
  • Photo courtesy of the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Elementary school students have grown up in an Indiana that is mostly void of monarchs. This butterfly's population has fallen by 90 percent since 1995.

Here's the back story: A Pike High School senior named Molly Denning sent Poyser an image of a monarch butterfly sculpture she'd created from the pages of National Geographic. Poyser thought it was a pretty cool idea and wagered a guess that elementary school kids would like to make sculptures of endangered creatures. He took the idea to Shannon Linker, Vice President of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and she loved it. The idea then moved to Arts for Learning. With Linker's help, Poyser's initial idea was narrowed down to 3-D depictions of monarch butterflies, and a call went out for fourth- and fifth-grade students to submit their artwork. The project is known as Save the Monarchs and will be on display in the Artsgarden from April 13 to May 18.

Save the Monarchs looks to be the first in a series of arts endeavors that focus on animals and insects in distress. "I see no reason why we can't choose a different endangered creature each year," Poyser says. "We'll be able to pack science in with art." (Sounds pretty artrageous, no?) Poyser continues: "I get excited when I think about how we as adults can be more mindfully engaged in creating adventures for kids -- that aspect of education and that aspect of flat-out fun."

Earth Charter Indiana is partnering with all sorts of folks on this project, including Earth Day Indiana, the Indiana Recycling Coalition, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the Nopal Cultural Center and Brick Street Poetry. Each organization is interested in raising awareness about the substantial decline of the monarch butterfly population. In fact, Brick Street invited poets to write a 16-quatrain, linked-verse poem that, according to Brick Street Program Chair and Indiana's first poet laureate, Joyce Brinkman, "beautifully traces the life cycle of the monarch. The poem ... [provides] an inviting, written chronicle of the butterfly's world. It exemplifies the connective nature of our planet by connecting readers to the monarch through the poem, and the poets with each other." Contributing poets include Brinkman, Norbert Krapf, Ben Rose, Shari Wagner, and Brick Street vice president Barry Harris. The poets will read the poem on Wednesday, April 22, at noon in the Artsgarden.

As students try to highlight the plight of the monarch here in Indy, several organizations have petitioned to give the beautiful butterflies "endangered species" status.  - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOREST RIDGE ACADEMY

April is turning out to be quite the month for butterflies! "I'm really happy we're focusing on monarch butterflies," Poyser says. "When kids find out about a problem, their immediate reaction is, 'Let's solve it. They don't get caught up in political ideology and 'We can't do this.'"

He continues, "Raising awareness around environmental issues is my work and the solutions are at our fingertips. Plant milkweed.Create butterfly habitats. Create a pit stop for butterflies in the land of racing," he says and laughs.

Be sure to stop by the Artsgarden between now and May 18 for a glimpse at the students' butterfly sculptures and to hear the Brick Street poets read their group poem. It's a great place to grab a bench, enjoy a sack lunch and take in some art with a message -- visual and written.

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