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Monarchs and Our Community

In the 2017-18 school year Donnelly Elementary will embark on a place based learning and conservation project to guide our K-5 students into becoming experts about Monarch ecology (Monarchs are Idaho’s State Insect) and to create a “waystation” or pollinator station for migrating butterflies to aid in their conservation, while learning common core standards in math, science, reading, writing, geography, and technology. The “hook” to get students interested in wanting to begin this project is to invite Diane Evans-Mack, IDFG Wildlife Biologist, to come to our school to give a talk on Monarchs and some pretext to their threatened status in early to mid- September. Then we can propose, ”Hey Guys, what should we do about this?! Do you think we can help them to survive?” So it’s more or less their idea….

The DES staff will guide students in becoming experts on Monarch ecology, designing a pollinator garden on the side of our playground, raising western Monarchs in early September, and then releasing them into our garden, understanding that the 4th generation (need to confirm this) will migrate. We can conflate a great amount of academic standards in this project each year that we carry this out to create and maintain a pollinator station here, with the goal of becoming a certified “Monarch Waystation” within a few years (see attached requirements).

As part of learning CCSS standards, students will read nonfiction about Monarch ecology, write what they know about them, use math and engineering skills to design the best Monarch habitat, practice counting Milkweed each year, measuring Milkweed height, and understanding Milkweed phenology, using and recording in classroom-created science journals. After practicing basic skills, they can learn how to take a sub-sample of Milkweed. Students can learn the technical aspects of collecting scientific data after finding Monarch caterpillars and eggs, or butterflies, and noting the developmental stage each year. They can do this by visiting the garden to make observations, but also can observe photos taken by out wireless trail cam. The data they collect can be shared with The Xerxces Society and become habitat data from Valley County available to scientists working on Monarch Conservation. Eventually, when the 4th generation of Monarchs can be found in our garden in the summer, we can net them, tag them (there are special stickers for this), and send them off for migration to California, where we can possibly communicate with classrooms along the migration route there about their sightings.

Multiage learning activities will include a “What’s Alive?” activity in which all students will be taught to develop positive use of critiquing the reasoning of others, while defending one’s own ideas with evidence. Students across grade levels will also work together on artwork related to Monarchs. This will follow with learning about life cycles, habitat and migration, among other topics. Teachers will weave their own grade level standards into the learning of Monarch ecology in individual classrooms, as well.

In the library, students will have access to a giant map of the US displayed at school, on which they will be able to place pins depicting sightings of Monarchs during their migration from the Journey North website’s interactive map. Here, students will be exposed to the geography of the United States and discuss this in our “community meetings” in the library each Friday. Aside the map display, will be a Monarch “Word Wall”, on which students will post related words that they learn during the project, learning to sort the words into categories of math, science, and geography words, and also identifying which words are predicates and which are nouns.

The older students will create a community presentation for the city to explain the plight of the Monarchs and what others can do to help in their recovery.