Amanda Rollins Maxwell teaches first years how their journey relates to that of a monarch butterfly

London Newton 
News Writer
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Photo by: London Newton
Lecturer in Health and Wellness Amanda Maxwell with her 178 students, (left to right) Kristen Terwiliger, Amanda Maxwell, Jenna Kirkland and Abril Ruiz-Lopez

First-year students and monarch butterflies spread their wings for the first time this fall on UNC Asheville’s campus, both set to start their journey away from home with new friends to bring along.
Lecturer in Health and Wellness Promotion Amanda Maxwell brought monarch butterflies she raised to the quad Thursday afternoon with her 178 course. Around the same time students moved on campus to start classes, Maxwell’s butterflies were starting their lives. It takes approximately 28 days for monarch butterflies to grow from an egg to a butterfly, Maxwell explained.
The UNCA campus provides an ideal place for freeing the butterflies because of its abundance of edible vegetation.
“I’m really excited that we have so many wild places on campus; wild gardens, lots of edible food, there’s a lot of milk weed around campus and that’s very deliberate,” Maxwell said.
While monarchs get their sustenance from campus vegetation at the beginning of their journey, first-years become equipped with real world skills and transitory guidance in their 178 courses for their own journey. 
Maxwell said butterflies can be easily integrated into any curriculum such as biology, math and statistics when studying population growth and decline. Maxwell and her students compare the themes of the book “Callings” by Dave Isay to the life of a mmarch, the summer reading for first year students.
“The book that we read this summer was about each person finding their own path and following their own path. It’s kind of like how each monarch butterfly is going to find its own path in the world and be free and do what it loves,” said Marie Tomblin, a student who attended the event. 
Maxwell was presented with the opportunity to take a free class on caring for monarch butterflies during her time as a high school teacher.
“I did a training with the Monarch Teacher Network. The goal was to train teachers on how to identify and find eggs out in the wild and raise the caterpillar in a protected environment and then release the butterflies to increase the populations of monarchs but also to bring them in and teach other people,” Maxwell said.
What was meant to be a fun addition to her class became something she looked forward to every year for her own enjoyment, she compares it to the happiness people found in the book while finding their callings. 
She said she likens the relaxation of looking for butterfly eggs to listening to the ocean and uses her time searching in milkweeds for eggs as time to calm her mind. 
According to the UNCA Registrar site, 178 courses are meant to help with the transition of first-year students into college. Maxwell says part of this transition requires knowing when to take a second to do something you enjoy for your mental health. She has also managed to get her students just as excited about monarch butterflies.
“Butterflies go on an amazing journey throughout their lives. One pack of butterflies fly all the way from Canada then back to Mexico where they mate,” said Sidney Haga, a UNC Asheville freshman taking the 178 course. 
In this movement toward warmer weather, four generations are born and die. The last generation of the four must store more fat for resilience on the trip back to Mexico. 
“When they’re all the way up north there’s this generation called the super generation and they live longer than all the other generations and they’re the ones that fly back to Mexico,” said Sheyla Hernandez-Ortiz, another student in the 178 course. 
At the end of the event, once all of the butterflies flew away, all that was left were the caterpillars she brought who have not yet gotten to their phase of independence. A new generation will soon join the tens of millions of butterflies on their journey south for the winter.