Milkweed to Monarchs in Schools

August 1, 2015  |  conservation, milkweed, monarch butterfly
Milkweed to Monarchs in Schools

By Melissa Sabo

Teachers all over the tri-state area have been jumping at the opportunity to get their students involved with monarch conservation this year through the Nature Center’s Milkweed to Monarchs initiative, which raises awareness on the fragile plight of the monarch and encourages the planting of free native milkweed seeds.  It’s thrilling to see schools increasing biodiversity in their outdoor spaces by adding native plants, as well as sending home milkweed seeds with their students to plant.  This strengthens support for migrating monarchs who come to our area. Teachers have remarked about how well the monarch theme lends itself to both classroom and schoolyard learning. With such a charismatic and captivating animal, they have been able to integrate multiple subject areas around the topic while reaching grade level standards, meeting curriculum goals and exciting students about learning.

Matt Cohen and Dolly Lickert, third grade teachers at Hyde Park School, said, “When we have an opportunity like this, we almost have to reign ourselves in because we get so excited, but I think that’s what makes a project like this so successful with our students. They really enjoy that they’re immediately contributing to the world in a positive way.” The teachers discussed a week-long cross-curricular unit on monarchs, digging into the life cycle, documenting monarch migration on a map, taking pictures and measurements of the growing milkweed seeds they planted, and creating digital books to pull in technology in a meaningful way.

Students at Boyd E. Smith Elementary in Milford have been learning about monarchs as well. Third grade students learned about migratory animals and focused on monarchs with their science teacher Lisa Holt-Taylor. Art teacher April Cooper has integrated monarchs into the fourth grade experience, investigating the beauty of these butterflies and also their fascinating relationship with milkweed. Students created three dimensional monarch sculptures, as well as two dimensional pieces.  Their artwork was displayed in the Rowe Woods Visitor Center over Earth Day weekend in April.

Other ideas explored by area teachers include:

  • Investigating migration with students and participating in citizen science projects to report sightings of migratory animals
  • Documenting each stage of the life cycle of monarchs observed in the schoolyard
  • Recording when milkweed plants emerge in the spring
  • Using data collection and measurement of milkweed plants to graph growth throughout the spring season

Share your stories

If you’re a teacher in the tri-state area, we appreciate hearing your monarch school stories! Tell us how monarchs have inspired you inside and outside the classroom by emailing Melissa Sabo, School Program Manager, at