Educators play an important role in monarch conservation, whether you are a formal PreK-12 teacher; an informal or environmental educator; a college professor; or something inbetween. Your institution can support and encourage conservation actions for monarchs and pollinators that have the potential to go far beyond one lesson or outreach event. By teaching and spreading awareness about monarchs and pollinators, you have the power not only to foster a love for conservation and the natural world in youth and your community, but to be the driving force behind getting people across the nation involved in this important effort. Your role is crucial in teaching the next generation to be good environmental citizens, and to the future of monarch conservation!
Monarchs offer an opportunity to teach young people critical thinking and to foster curiosity about the connections between diverse areas and people. Monarchs are an amazing, globally distributed and admired species between cultures and countries.
"In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum
Creating Monarch Habitat for Education
Habitat Planning and Investment:
Monarch habitat is pollinator habitat and thus, is essential to our food supply. Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. Pollinator habitat adds beauty to any setting with its vibrant displays of flowers and by attracting insects, birds, and other wildlife. A demonstration or schoolyard garden or habitat requires some maintenance, but is an enjoyable opportunity for hands- on education, and to get community members involved by helping to keep up the space and interacting with students.
Start by thinking about potential areas to install pollinator habitat. If possible, you’ll want an area that is sunny, easily accessible, and in plain sight for passersby. If students are helping to plan and install the habitat, have them help with the design by brainstorming, drawing out what to plant and where (based on colors, plant height, etc.), and taking measurements of the space. If you are in a school, getting the full support of school administration and maintenance staff will help ensure the long term success of your garden. Use Monarch Joint Venture’s Monarch Habitat Assessment Tool and Schoolyard Butterfly Gardens handout to inform your initial planning efforts. The National Wildlife Federation offers schoolyard habitat planning tools and resources as well.
There are a lot of funding opportunities out there for monarch and pollinator habitat in schoolyard gardens. Education Outside lists funding opportunities for school gardens. In addition, the Monarch Lab lists garden grant opportunities. Monarch Watch offers milkweeds for large restoration projects (greater than 2 acres), which can be applied for here. Planting milkweeds native to your ecoregion is important. Seek out local sources of pesticide-free plants.
Education and Monitoring:
Explore and utilize available curriculum lessons, or create your own, to engage students in outdoor learning.
Many certification programs are available to register or certify your habitat for increased exposure and generating awareness. Use these to share your story and display signage to draw attention to the site and its value for monarchs and pollinators. Create your own signage to inform others about the purpose of the habitat, how it came to be, and what they can do in their own yards.
You can also learn about and provide valuable information to conservation scientists about how monarchs are utilizing habitat in your pollinator garden through citizen science. These projects provide a great opportunity to involve students or community members in your monarch or pollinator project while contributing to a larger scientific effort. Citizen science is also an excellent way to actively engage your students in every stage of scientific process. Monarch citizen science opportunities are described here.
For informal educators, there are many existing resources and activities available that you can conduct with all ages to spread the word about monarchs.
Below are some examples of students benefiting from pollinator habitat along with the monarchs:
- www.plantmilkweed.org provides more information on creating habitat for monarchs, including sourcing native, locally sourced seeds and plants and selecting what is appropriate for your area.
- In addition, the MJV has compiled many valuable resources from our partners on our Downloads and Links page. These handouts provide great information, but can also be downloaded and distributed to various audiences.
- More lesson plans from Journey North, U.S. Forest Service, and MLMP.
- Consider having your class or students become Butterfly Heroes!
- Find books, educational supplies, and artwork from Bas Relief, LLC.
- The Field Museum created a moanrch book and monarch coloring book that's free to download! Find it here under the "LEARN MORE ABOUT MONARCH BUTTERFLIES" section.
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