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Students Make a Hands-on Difference for Monarchs!
Close to 20,000 school children from Minnesota to Texas are digging in deep to restore monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat.
In some cases, students had never grown flowers from seed before or planted items in a garden. Students like those at Eisenhower High School students in Goddard Texas, had several mishaps with broken tools even after training. Initially, some plants were placed into holes incorrectly (upside down, but still in the pot). Some students could not stand to get their hands dirty. After trial and error the Eisenhower students got into it and are now extremely proud of the over 13 elevated garden beds adjacent to the school’s greenhouse and a one acre native grasses section. They even installed a QR code trail so visitors can learn about the plants and how they help wildlife.
Over the past 2 years, one thousand participating schools located throughout the monarch butterfly’s central migratory flyway, have expanded their outdoor education by enhancing and creating butterfly garden habitats. This was made possible through a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program and Ameriwood Home Furnishing’s Little Seeds® brand.
Across the country, the decline of pollinators and monarchs can be directly traced to habitat decline and the large scale use of pesticides. A once a thriving species, the monarch butterfly in particular has seen a population decline of 90% in the last 20 years alone.
A survey of schools that participated indicated the following results:
- On average, 20 students were involved in planting of the garden and learning about the plight of monarchs with their teacher/educator
- 75% of schools added native pollinator friendly plants to complement the seeds provided in their garden starter kit.
- Some of the most popular native plants added were: Yarrow, Blazing Star, Black-eyed Susan, Joe-Pye weed, purple coneflower, aster and salvia among many others.
- 100% of schools added their seeds to enhance an existing outdoor classroom garden in 2017
- 20% created new schoolyard gardens and the remaining 80% enhanced existing outdoor classroom habitats in 2018.
The schools were selected based on their location along the central flyway, which includes 14 states near the I-35 Habitat Corridor that monarch butterflies use as their migration route. A total of 500 schools participated in 2017 and an additional 500 schools joined in 2018 to include all grade levels of K-12 education within public and private schools to create butterfly gardens.
Student and Teacher Feedback
We enjoyed gathering supplies, getting dirty, removing invasive species and planting both seeds and plants in our garden. We also included three bird houses, food and water collection areas of native animals. The kids learned a lot about our area and how to make our common space more beautiful while helping the earth. -Hoffman School, Glenview, IL
Other students at Lincoln Park High School, Michigan shared that they enjoyed working together to plant the pollinator garden and discussed the threats facing pollinators and why it is important to protect them. Students at Hobby Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, were inspired to section off the a portion of their campus to allow the native plants and grasses and flowers grow undisturbed. They noted that the NWF Schoolyard Habitat signs provided educated passerby’s and maintenance staff to the importance of the area.
Ameriwood Little Seeds® provided support for this project to involve their eco-conscious buyers and engage a youth audience who desires to make a difference in our natural environment. Ameriwood included information for customers in their product line and promotion that told how to help monarchs and nominate schools to participate. Teachers and their students received schoolyard garden starter kits including a seed collection with 4 packs of milkweed native to their region and pollinator friendly nectar providing flowers that allowed a school to plant a 100 square foot garden and a seed starter guide and access to online monarch resources. Once seeds were planted, schools were encouraged to proudly display their provided Certified Schoolyard Habitat sign and certify their school online. Together, Little Seeds and the National Wildlife Federation spread the message of monarch conservation to new audiences. Learn more on NWF’s work for monarchs and pollinators.