As summer turns to fall, the slight chill in the air tells a Monarch butterfly that it’s time to begin its long journey south. It’s also the time for kids to journey to the Ney Nature Center near Henderson for a truly hands-on educational experience.

It is there, on a blue-skied late-September day, that more than a dozen inquisitive children — and a few inquisitive adults — came to hear about the life cycle of Monarchs, learn of their migration patterns and, most exciting of all, tag them.

Each child gently plucked a butterfly from a netted cage and examined it closely. Was it a boy butterfly or a girl butterfly? The end of its abdomen told the tale. With great care, a small white sticker was placed in a particular spot on the underside of each Monarch’s right wing.

Printed on the stickers was an e-mail address, phone number and unique code. If and when any of these insects are captured again — anywhere between here and their winter nesting grounds 2,000 miles away in southwest Mexico — researchers at the University of Kansas will record it. Over time, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of how and why Monarchs make their amazing journeys.

But on this day, at least, the newly tagged butterflies didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to go anywhere. Released outside, many soon fluttered back to their former captor’s hands. It was a beautiful afternoon in Minnesota, after all. Mexico could wait a few more days.

The Ney Nature Center is located about a mile northeast of Henderson on State Highway 19. For more information, log on to www.neycenter.org or call Ney Nature Center Director Becky Pollack at (507) 248-3474. To learn more about the University of Kansas’ Monarch Watch tagging program, log on to www.monarchwatch.org or call (888) TAGGING.