The butterflies led us (slightly) south

Every year, one generation of Monarch butterflies makes an incredible journey from points  north, such as Canada and North America, all the way to their wintering grounds in Mexico.  We have been fascinated by their journey since we started observing them in the un-mowed portion of our yard.

This year, they inspired us to take a mini journey of our own from PA to Washington D.C.  We wanted to see the film, “Flight of the Butterflies,”  which was playing in select locations, one of which was the Museum of Natural History in D.C.  The film chronicles a scientist’s forty year search for the Monarch wintering grounds.  With the help of citizen scientists, he worked tirelessly to tag and track Monarchs until he finally found them one winter in Mexico.

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The movie was excellent.  It was shown in 3D and my kids loved watching the butterflies seemingly fly close enough to touch.  I had not heard the story of how the Monarch location was discovered before watching the film and found it very inspiring.  We were glad we made the trip to see the film, but made lots of other great memories too.

We arrived on a Saturday around lunch time and checked into a hotel on Capitol Hill.  We were within walking distance of the Capitol building and made that our first stop.  It was a beautiful weekend, sunny and just the right temperature.  I discovered that D.C. makes for some awesome photo moments!

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20130420_124253From the Capitol, we walked to the U.S. Botanic Gardens.  We love visiting places like this.  It was free and full of educational opportunities!  All the plants were labeled with their names and the names of the countries where they grow.  We discussed some of the countries and how their climates must differ from ours.

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Cocoa Tree

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There was a children’s garden with many things to discover.

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US Botanical Gardens DC

From there, we decided the kids may have had enough walking and we jumped on one of the sight seeing buses.  We loved riding on the top deck and seeing the sights of D.C.!

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Riding the bus in DCDC tour bus

We paid for 24 hours on the bus.  We could then hop on and off at the sights we wanted to see and even ride the bus back to our hotel.   We stopped at the Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial Washington D.C.Jefferson Memorial Washington DC

We drove by the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the White House, but the kids were tired by then so we stayed on the bus and checked them out from a distance.

Lincoln Memeorial Washington DC

Lincoln Memeorial

Washington Monument

Washington Monument under repair due to damage in an earthquake

White House

Drive by photo of the White House

After lots of bus riding, walking and sight seeing, we took the advice of our hotel attendant and walked to Union Station for dinner.  Union Station is still an operating train station and has shops and a large food court.  The kids were satisfied with typical fast food fare while we opted for island food (also a chain, but with Caribbean flair).  The building was interesting to explore and we checked out a sculpture out front which led to a quick lesson on recycling.

Union Station DC Plastic Storm Sculpture

Plastic Storm Sculpture

Plastic Storm Sculpture

We headed back to the hotel for a bathroom break and headed right back out to see the Capitol building at night.  I have to give a shout out to my three hard core (sometimes) adventurers.  They walked a lot that day and my three year old didn’t ask to be carried until about 8:30pm on the way back from the Capitol.  She’s a tough cookie, that one.

Capitol Washington DCAfter a good night’s sleep, we headed to Union Station in the morning to catch the bus to the Museum of Natural History.  There was a lot t see on the way and at the museum and we took in as much as we could before “Flight of the Butterflies” started.

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Museum of Natural History in Washington DC

Inside the Museum of Natural History

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We also checked out the butterfly exhibit and saw live butterflies and moths.

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After the museum, we walked some more!  D.C. is a great place to walk with kids.  There is so much to see.  We found great sculptures and food trucks and enjoyed beautiful views.

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We walked until our feet hurt and loved it!  We let the kids take a quick swim in the hotel pool and then headed back to PA late Sunday afternoon.

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IMG_0263This was an awesome trip.  Lots of teachable moments, lots of exercise, lots of family time.  It was a perfect example of the benefit of following your interests to create learning opportunities.  While we went to D.C. to see the butterfly movie, we learned about so much more.

What are your family’s interests? 

Where will they lead you?

2 thoughts on “The butterflies led us (slightly) south

  1. The Next Step

    that’s awesome! do they still have the butterfly pavillion at the NHM? I took my 6yo there when she was 2 and it was SO cool. I have some of the BEST pictures of her, with a look of awe and wonder and excitement on her face as she was seeing butterflies so up close and personal. :-) There is a butterfly place up her in MA that is really cool – but I’m not sure I could trust one of the twins not to crush everything in her path if we went there.

    1. naturallyeducated Post author

      Yes, they still have the butterfly pavilion. I was very afraid one of my three would stomp something too! We get up close and personal with butterflies in our yard all the time and since my husband fancies himself a milkweed farmer (added lots of milkweed to the yard this year!), we should be seeing even more this summer!

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