Chicago non-profit uses monarch butterfly migration as teaching moment for kids

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago organization is doing its part to help families and the environment at the same time.

As we kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, we're taking a closer look at El Valor and its unique partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

A big project they've been working on all summer is starting to take flight. It's one of nature's most spectacular events and has certainly captured the attention of kids.

Right now is the peak time for the annual migration of the monarch butterfly. It's a journey that will take these delicate creatures nearly two months to complete.

"These butterflies will fly all the way back to central Mexico to the reserve and they typically arrive at the end of October for Day of the Dead, they say it's the souls of the relatives coming home," said Michael Rizo, program specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

For the last decade, the community based non-profit El Valor has turned the migration of the monarch into a teaching opportunity. Hundreds of families in Chicago grow milkweed, which is vital for the monarch's survival.

"We rejoice and celebrate butterflies coming from Mexico up through the U.S. and into Canada and back down again it's very symbolistic with our families who come from Mexico," said Ray B. Gonzalez, president and CEO of El Valor.

Before they're set free, each butterfly is tagged so it can be tracked once it arrives in Mexico. It's hoped that El Valor's conservation program will go a long way in preserving the monarch butterfly so they'll be around for generations to come.

"It's getting people involved. That's what it's all about to provide habitat and hopefully we can increase population of this migratory phenomenon," said Rizo.

School children in Mexico will be welcoming the butterflies by the end of next month.

El Valor hopes the project will inspire more kids to become scientists and have a better appreciation of nature and protecting the environment.
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