The fourth grade students at Petersburg Elementary School have been participating in our Monarch Edventures program since the fall of last year. What began as a program introducing the conversation of monarch butterflies ended up growing into something much more meaningful.
These elementary school students began learning about the impact monarch butterflies, and other pollinators, have on their everyday lives. In our Monarch Edventures Program, we covered topics such as the incredible phenomenon that is the annual migration of monarchs, life cycles, biodiversity, and habitat needs. They also learned of the extreme challenges these creatures are currently facing. The looming fact that the monarch population has decreased by ninety percent since the 1980s is a troubling statistic. Destruction of habitat where monarchs live and lay their eggs, and the changing climate that impacts their great 2,899 mile migration, are just a couple factors that plays a role in the plummeting population numbers.
It is evident that the monarch butterflies are on the verge of endangerment if nothing is done, so plans of creating a safe haven for monarchs began to develop at Petersburg Elementary School. Around the backside of the school resided a few raised flower beds that had not been used or maintained in years. This deemed the perfect canvas to create a schoolyard garden for students, butterflies, and pollinators to enjoy for years to come.
Students took the initiative to repair and bring life to the existing raised beds. The school had also contributed additional beds that students worked together to build. With a few nails, some digging in the dirt, topped off with soil, and a fresh coat of paint, the nine raised flower beds that were added to the schoolyard came together nicely. To brighten up the garden even more, students used their creativity to decorate rocks they found nearby to include in the garden space. Students then planted native milkweed and wildflower species in each of the raised beds so that monarchs had the habitat they needed to survive and thrive.
As the native plants grow within this new garden space, so will the program and the limitless learning opportunities. In the coming months, students will be studying monarch butterflies more closely through rearing monarchs, data collection, parasitic monitoring, and monarch tagging. The vision for this garden is to create an extension of the classroom for students to observe, learn, and educate others. Our goal is to evolve and grow this space into a Schoolyard Ecology Exhibit, including signage that will depict the biodiverse habitat of the schoolyard and provide useful tools to spread awareness of pollinators and monarch butterflies.
It has been truly incredible to witness these students working collaboratively and diligently to be part of the solution. We spent a full school year learning about monarch butterflies, why they are so important, obstacles we must hurdle, and what we as a community can do to help. As these fourth grade students came together to make a real difference in their schoolyard, we see them continuing the conversation about monarch butterflies with others and representing true stewardship qualities in their community. As for the monarchs, the sky’s the limit, and it is encouraging to see the vision of creating this monarch safe haven and community learning space become action. The benefits of the hard work that has been done, and is yet to come, will hold lasting effects for the humans and butterflies who will visit this space.