First of all, welcome to the forums!
During my many years here at Monarch Watch we have sent out several hundred thousand monarch caterpillars to classrooms and homes throughout the eastern U.S. and the feedback that we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. It is very gratifying to talk to teachers and find out that raising monarchs has had a real impact on their students - in some cases turning "problem" students into enthusiastic participants in science and their education in general.
Some may think this is over the top, saying that "they're just bugs" but the monarch is such a charismatic insect with a fascinating life history that it easily captures the attention of students. Once that is accomplished it is much easier to initiate a dialog between teachers and their students. Using the monarch as a jumping off point gives teachers the opportunity to explore so many different subjects - biology, physics, conservation, geography, math, culture, scientific method and so much more. Moreover, if choose to participate in our tagging program
, students are introduced to and become active participants in a real scientific study, providing useful data to an ongoing large-scale mark and recapture study.
Many classrooms will raise monarchs to tag and release them in the fall, others raise them to explore aspects of their biology and behavior through experimentation or to educate others through science fairs and the like.
We have found that monarchs can be successfully raised by students of all ages, provided they are given instruction appropriate for their age - the youngest are usually taught the "one-finger rule" to gently touch the monarchs. I can't tell you how many times we have given people of all ages (from two to ninety-two!) their first close-up encounter with monarchs - the responses usually express some element of surprise or discovery and include "I had no idea that...". All too often children are taught "don't touch" or "don't get too close" but hands-on learning is so important...there is really no substitute for experiencing something first-hand and in the case of monarchs I think it leads to a greater respect for this amazing little critter in particular and maybe even nature in general.
That said, rearing monarchs actually requires very little handling and we provide complete instruction with each kit . These forums provide a wealth of information contributed by those that raise monarchs and we're always here to answer any questions you may have.
I suppose that was way more than you wanted to know, but there you go
The "My Monarch Experience" forum might be of interest to you and I hope others will stop by and add their 2¢