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Wild@Art Stories: Jamie and the Monarch Butterfly

Feb 18 2013

Jamie Jeon has always been fascinated by butterflies and remembers catching them when she was a child growing up in South Korea.

When the 16-year old student in the Byng Arts Mini School at Vancouver’s Lord Byng Secondary had a chance to participate in an art project on BC’s species at risk with her art teacher Donna Webber and the Wilderness Committee, she chose to work on the monarch butterfly.

“I thought insects and butterflies don’t get enough coverage, and I have always liked butterflies,” Jamie says. “Insects are everywhere around us so people don’t usually think they would go endangered,” she says.


More Appreciation for Nature's Beauty

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is federally listed as Special Concern and blue-listed in BC.  Widely distributed from Central America to southern Canada, they occur in all provinces and require milkweed (Asclepius sp.), the larval food plant, and wildflowers for nectar. Monarchs are faced with multiple threats, including diseases, and the elimination of milkweed and Eucalyptus trees.

Jamie moved from South Korea to Canada when she was in Grade 2. “I was amazed when I first came here,” she recalls. “We don’t have as much wildlife in Korea. It is mostly buildings there, and the landscape is grey. Here, it is so bright.” 

Perhaps because of these differences, Jamie has retained a continued appreciation for British Columbia's natural wonders. She is concerned that people are addicted to cell phones and social media and no longer take the time to appreciate nature’s beauty. That is why she enjoys walking to school as it gives her the time to think. “People should start thinking about appreciating every moment,” she says.

Before working on the Endangered Species art project with the Wilderness Committee, Jamie was not very interested in BC’s species at risk and did not know much about the topic. She was  surprised to learn that BC does not have any stand-alone legislation to protect species at risk. “I was surprised because BC seems to be one of the best places to live in the world because of nature,” she says.

The art project proved to be a significant learning opportunity for Jamie, as she had to put a lot of effort into researching the topic and her species of choice, the monarch butterfly. “I learned that there are a lot of endangered species, more than what people think, and it's hard to appreciate this because we live in such a modernized society, and we don't really see all these endangered species in our daily lives,” she says.

Showcasing the Monarch's Fragility

To create a colourful 3D sculpture of the Monarch butterfly, Jamie looked at many butterfly pictures to become familiar at all the angles and how the wings work. Since butterflies are so delicate and small, she decided to use thin tissue paper to show how fragile butterflies are. At the bottom of her sculpture, she added hard man-made objects to establish a clear contrast between the delicate nature of the butterfly and the harshness of the human world, and to show “how we should be careful with nature.”

Jamie’s artwork was featured at the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Wild@Art exhibition in October and November 2012, along with artwork celebrating BC’s species at risk from five other elementary and secondary schools across the province. Thanks to Jamie’s artwork, her mother learned more about endangered species, and was proud of her daughter’s artistic accomplishment.

Since she has worked on this project, Jamie now looks at butterflies differently. “When I see a butterfly, I feel I know how it works and how it flies.”

-- Photos and Text by Isabelle Groc for the Wilderness Committee --

Many butterfly species are in trouble. To learn more about butterflies: watch our video profile where we follow butterfly expert Patrick Lilley in his search for the Propertius Duskywing butterfly in the Garry Oak Ecosystem of Salt Spring Island, BC.

Ways You can Help butterflies and BC's Species at Risk:
Take action and sign a petition to ask for endangered species legislation.
Support the Wilderness Committee's species at risk campaign: adopt a species at risk or purchase a BC species gift package.


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