GRAHAM, N.C. -- An Alamance County school uses its butterfly garden to help protect the monarch species. Teachers and students at Alexander Wilson Elementary held their first butterfly release on Monday.
"I got to get up on stage in-front of everyone and have butterflies crawling on me and then fly away," said 5th grader Natalie Couturier.
Teacher Assistant Kay Story says the number of monarch butterflies is decreasing.
"[They are decreasing] because of loss of habitat especially through pesticides and through loss of milkweed growing in farm land country," said Story.
Story says since North Carolina is part of a monarch migration path to Mexico, the release helps protect this species.
"It was amazing to find the monarch caterpillars in the wild and raise them because we would have had to order from out-of-state for eggs or caterpillars and we wanted to do it through nature," said Story.
Educators say it's important to have a monarch waystation like the one they have at the school because it gives the migrating butterflies access to milkweed, nectar sources and a place to rest during their journey.
The butterflies are tagged with identifiers from the University of Kansas. Teachers say they are participating in a conservation effort which helps the monarchs as well as the students.
"Then they have a personal experience that they can attach that to and they can remember that for the rest of their life," said teacher Daniel Flack. "That they got to experience their education."
The students can see the butterflies' progress sometime next spring. The data will be cataloged, recorded and shared by the University of Kansas.