“We could never have loved the earth so well, if we had no childhood in it” – George Eliot
Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, located in the urban center of Cincinnati, Ohio, serves a population of children that grow up in a world of sidewalks and convenience stores. It is not the space where one would typically find an abundance of pollinators on their back porch. So, how is this school’s community supposed to have a soft spot in their heart for nature or an appreciation for saving the landscapes, ecosystems or any of its organisms? They have to know it, feel it, see it and learn it. That’s where their Rooftop Garden comes into play!
The goal of the school’s Rooftop Garden is to enlighten inner city students to the connection between nature, food, plants and animals by giving them a way to engage with the natural environment first hand. As a result, the students learn about the importance of preservation and conservation, as well as nutrition and sustainability.
The small-but-mighty pollinator task force at Great Parks of Hamilton County, a Monarch Joint Venture partner, was invited to collaborate with the school. The task force was awestruck and excited when the school’s garden manager took them on a tour of the rooftop garden. They were even more excited as their visions of collaborating to create pollinator plots in the garden and make pollinators part of the school curriculum began to form.
The first step in this collaboration was engaging the students with a monarch butterfly program. Great Parks’ outreach specialist Julie Stubbs brought monarch butterflies to the school last summer. It was not a typical classroom program; students also had the opportunity to tag the monarchs while learning about their plight.
Julie said, “I was really impressed with how gentle the students were when handling these insects. Holding a butterfly, learning how to tag it, feeding it sugar water and placing it on a flower in a human-designed landscape shows that nature is everywhere. Children were connected to nature because it was real, not just a picture. Their questions were very free-flowing and imaginative. Everyone wanted to participate, which is half the battle.”
Photos captured the students with wide eyes and genuine amazement as they crowded around a tiny butterfly. Learning about monarchs truly is a one-of-a-kind science lesson!
Teachers at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy were impressed with the curiosity of the students as well, saying that these students had never experienced this sort of hands-on learning with butterflies. It is likely something that they will never forget - and that’s the goal.
Next, Great Parks will take the students on a visit to Shaker Trace Nursery in Miami Whitewater Forest to see a pollinator habitat on a large scale. There, they will have the opportunity to visit prairies and learn about the importance of native plants. Great Parks hopes the students will walk away with a well-rounded knowledge of what they can do to make a difference and have a spark of appreciation and ownership for the natural world around them.
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Photos taken by Byrna Bass.