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The Next Generation of Monarch Conservation: Creating FFA Monarch Gardens

Feb 03, 2017


  • Conservation Stories

Many factors are contributing to the monarch population decline, including loss of breeding and migratory habitat throughout their range. Last year, the Monarch Joint Venture, University of Minnesota Monarch Lab and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) partnered with FFA chapters and other community partners to help create more habitat to support monarchs and other pollinators.

With support from NCTC, we were able to provide five FFA chapters across the country with funds to help create monarch habitat in their community. Students worked with teachers and community members to design and create monarch habitat on their school lands, or other local site, such as a community garden or a USFWS National Wildlife Refuge.

Before and after: FFA monarch butterfly garden at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.Jennings County FFA worked with Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge to install an accessible pollinator garden that will help educate both students and community groups like Master Gardeners and volunteers at the Refuge about monarch habitat and migration. Before and after photos by Emily Hodapp, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.

Installing a garden or other habitat is a powerful way to engage communities in raising awareness for monarch butterfly conservation and for conservation in general. Each chapter we supported built a team of FFA student leadership, community members and school staff to ensure their project would support monarchs and other important pollinators in the long term. This opportunity provided FFA students with the kind of hands-on project experience that promotes leadership skills, science knowledge, conservation actions and environmental awareness.

Cape May County Technical High School in Massachusetts has fully integrated their new monarch garden into their district’s activities. Through monarch butterfly lessons and activities in three courses, their Summer Bridging Program, community events, and elementary school tours, many community members are getting involved.

From assisting in planting to conducting research projects on monarch migration, the creation of this monarch habitat on the school’s campus has created broad opportunities for environmental awareness among Cape May students and community members.

The monarch butterfly life cycle on butterfly weed at the FFA Monarch Garden at Cape May Tech.

When the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) that students planted at Cape May began to thrive, students were able to find 18 chrysalises by the end of August, 2016. The above photos were all taken by Lisa Roach on Cape May school grounds. Project leader Lisa Roach writes:

“Students from both last year and this year were able to observe first-hand how monarchs located and utilized the garden for reproductive and migration purposes. Witnessing the attraction and success engaged the students in sharing what they learned and involvement in further development of the schoolyard habitat.”

Interested in creating a schoolyard or community monarch garden in your neighborhood? Download our Schoolyard Butterfly Gardens Handout for a guide on getting started. 


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. Header photo by Emily Hodapp, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.