Monarch Heroes Taking Flight in Texas

Monarch feeding on Prairie verbena. Photo by Marya Fowler
Monarch Heroes Program Launched in 15 schools in Texas 

To help build awareness and reverse monarch decline in Texas, NWF launched our Monarch Heroes Program with the Austin and Houston Independent School Districts in September. This environmental education and outreach program will engage and empower students and community members to create critical milkweed habitat. Students will also participate in citizen science data collection related to the welfare of the monarch population (tagging the monarchs as they migrate south in the fall, identifying the location of milkweed species and counting numbers of monarch eggs in the spring).

NWF is providing professional development, guidance, and funds to 15 participating schools this fall, to help them implement monarch gardens on their campuses.

The monarch is a tangible species that is in trouble and that children can help with fairly simple actions such as planting native milkweed and nectar plants. Children can see monarchs in their schoolyards and backyards and through this program they are getting a chance to effect change in the world that is relevant to their own lives. That is a very powerful learning experience.

Teacher participating in lesson during an NWF a professional development. Photo by Marya Fowler
Teachers visiting the milkweed nursery at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Photo by Marya Fowler
Nikki Scofield-Kennedy, Science Instructional Coach and Tech Girls Coordinator at Martin Middle School in Austin says, “The Monarch Heroes program allows our students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations.  This makes the curriculum come alive for the students, in turn heightening their interest and success inside and outside of the classroom.”

The migrating population of the monarch butterfly is one of the more mystifying and magical natural phenomena and one that scientists are still trying to understand. Students can play a role in helping scientists collect important data.

Learning how to use a digital microscope during an NWF PD. Photo by Marya Fowler
A tagged butterfly getting ready to fly south. Photo by Marya Fowler
Second grade teacher, Sheryl Southwell from Hill Elementary School in Austin ISD says, “The Monarch Heroes Program has taken our study of butterflies to a whole new level. As citizen scientists, our second graders are learning how to help the monarch through their work in our school butterfly garden.”

Each of the participating schools in Austin will be receiving 50 native Texas milkweed plants from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Native milkweed, Asclepias asperula. Photo from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Native milkweed, Asclepias asperula. Photo from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Species include Asclepias oenotheroides, Asclepias asperula, Aslcepias incarnata and Ascelpias tuberosa. The monarch habitats will be installed this fall to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and hopefully some rain.

Help us continue Monarch Heroes & other pollinator projects!

Monarch Heroes would not be possible without the support of our generous funders: 3M, The Applied Materials Foundation, HEB, USFWS, Powell and Hamman Foundations and the Garden Club of Houston.