- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

NAUVOO, Ill. (AP) - Sts. Peter and Paul fifth-grader Kamryn Burling admitted something she’d never repeat in the classroom.

“I want to get back to work,” Kamryn said.

But the classwork meant getting her hands dirty as students in Connie Lake’s fifth- and sixth-grade class and adult volunteers planted a monarch butterfly garden.

The circular garden with a sundial in the center features low-maintenance prairie grasses and perennials like purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans along with varieties of milkweed used by the monarchs to lay their eggs and feed the caterpillars on their annual migration.

“It’s a filling station for monarch butterflies,” fifth-grader Luke Little said.

The garden, funded by one of 10 grants handed out nationwide by the National Catholic Educational Association, is part of the school’s Monarch Rescue Project, which works to educate students about the plight of the butterflies.

“It’s harder and harder to find milkweed, and monarch only lays eggs on milkweed,” Lake said. “We applied (for the grant) knowing we were on the migratory route for monarchs. Every year we find little caterpillars on milkweed and put up a big net for the whole school to watch them grow and make a chrysalis.”

Planning for the garden expanded learning opportunities to include research on native plants, studying the life cycle of monarchs, creating children’s books to read to younger students in the school and learning how to plant seeds and repot seedlings in an effort to germinate milkweed in the classroom.

“They’ve already taken home with them the knowledge we’ve got to do something or we’ll lose monarchs,” Lake said. “When we can teach kids the importance of something in our environment, we can educate the kids to educate the parents. My kids are future farmers. They can take that knowledge with them to leave a patch of milkweed … to control weeds in more natural ways.”

Lake and retired teacher Deb Moffitt spearheaded the project, which had the students creating a template on Monday for the garden while learning about equilateral triangles and the adults placing color-coded stakes in the ground to mark the location for each plant.

“They’re learning with each step. I like that,” said Maggie Kelly, an avid gardener and a school volunteer who helped with the project.

“It’s really fun,” said sixth-grader Milo Koechle as he eased a small plant into the garden. “It’s fun helping the monarchs.”

After the plants were in the soil, the students added a layer of dampened newspaper and mulch to the garden.

“The focus here is this will grow into a self-sustaining meadow community,” Moffitt said. “We’re also having nectar plants there for other butterflies, and down the road, we see this also being a pollinator garden for bees.”

Other classroom lessons, like the Seven Habits, also connect to the garden project, Moffitt said, with the students brainstorming on themes of synergizing and being proactive.

“We are putting first things first by doing this and beginning with the end in mind because we are looking at how to help the monarch butterflies,” sixth-grader Brooklyn Walker said.


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1AWDpor


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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