ELA Superheroes Podcast Grade Band: K–2

Saving Monarch Butterflies and Building Empathy Through Early Literacy

Saving Monarch Butterflies and Building Empathy Through Early Literacy

ELA Superhero teachers, Taf Wilson, and Melanie Smith

Podcast Summary

Kindergartners from Golden Charter Academy, a public TK–5 school in Southwest Fresno, California, advocate for and participate in milkweed restoration in critical monarch habitat, thanks to their teachers Taf Wilson and Melanie Smith. In this interview, you will hear Taf and Melanie talk about their monarch butterfly unit and the ways they engage their students with reading, writing, listening, and speaking while saving butterflies in a project that began with a published curriculum unit and is evolving into a city-wide movement.

Credits: these podcasts and snapshots were created by CAELI members, Tara Kajtaniak, Cheney Munson, and Peggy Harte. Thank you for all of your work and support on this project!

“If you give a problem to Kindergartners, they want to take it to the world, and they need everyone to come help them.”

Taf Wilson

Featured ELA Superheroes

Taf Wilson (she/her)

I am a teacher because I believe in the transformative power of education to unlock each student’s potential and inspire lifelong learning. Watching young minds light up with curiosity and understanding fuels my passion to create an inclusive and empowering classroom environment. My goal is to nurture compassionate, confident learners who will thrive and positively impact their communities.


Melanie SmithMelanie Smith (she/her)

Melanie wanted to be a teacher ever since she had the most amazing teacher in second grade. This is her eighth year teaching kindergarten and she absolutely adores her students. Her heart feels most alive when she’s outside somewhere beautiful and her toes can touch the water!



Teaching Snapshot

Black children looking at paintings in a field with two adults.

This teaching snapshot describes the monarch unit discussed in the podcast in greater detail. It illustrates how Taf and Melanie drew on kids’ love of nature to optimize relevance, value, and collaboration (UDL Checkpoint 7.2) to support students in writing informative texts (ELA W.K.2) and communicate solutions to reduce the negative impacts of humans on other living beings (NGSS K-ESS3-3).


This interdisciplinary unit was inspired by and based on the unit: Amplify Science California: The Needs of Plants and Animals.

Additional Information

Article: The Monarch Movement: How kids used their voices for the environment (Isaiah Varella, 2023)