Monarchs have a new place to grow

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Proud students show off their Monarch Waystation sign for their participation in the Save the Monarchs program Tricia Putman created for second-grade students in Voorheesville. From left, in the back row are: Eric Richardson, Madeleine Reilly, and Kendra Krasuski. In front, are: Braden Stein and Cian Connolly.

 

VOORHEESVILLE — The garden project at Voorheesville Elementary School got a new addition this year when Tricia Putman made the Save the Monarchs program for second-grade students.

Putman, a parent of two daughters in the Voorheesville school district, also coaches an Odyssey of the Mind team at the elementary school. This past year, her team of fifth-grade students made it to state-level competition.

She has been involved with the garden project, which is funded by the Voorheesville Parent Teacher Association, since 2010, including the farm-to-school initiative, as well as the community and school garden, Blackbird Paradise. She wanted to bring a new program into the school, and created Save the Monarchs herself after seeing an article in a magazine about the plight the monarchs are facing.

Development of land is destroying the monarchs’ natural habitat, and many people consider milkweed, the only food source for monarch larvae, to be an unwanted plant since it can spread easily, so the plant often gets destroyed.

Both milkweed plants and monarchs themselves are vulnerable to herbicides and pesticides used by many farmers and gardeners.

The Save the Monarchs program fit perfectly with the curriculum for second-graders, she said, because they are learning about plant and animal life cycles.

Putman got in touch with monarchwatch.org, a national program based out of the University of Kansas that gets people of all ages involved in their large-scale project about conserving monarch butterflies.

Putman wanted to help raise awareness about the issues monarchs face, so getting the students to be involved with a national organization was a perfect fit.

Each second-grade classroom and the elementary school science lab got a “rearing kit” from Monarch Watch so they could see the caterpillars transform into butterflies.

The students also learned about milkweed, monarch larvae’s only food source. Putman taught the children how milkweed is poisonous to most insects, but monarchs are immune, and their ability to eat the milkweed makes them poisonous and foul-tasting to whatever creature tries to make a snack of them.

The kids thought that was the coolest part, Putman said.

While the monarchs were growing up, the students had to plant nectar sources around the monarch area of the garden so the adult monarchs would have food.

The butterflies were released in mid-June, and, when they begin to migrate south in the fall, Putman hopes to have the newest second-graders participate in Save the Monarchs by tagging the butterflies with little stickers, which allow Monarch Watch to track their migration patterns.

Also, the kids will collect the seed pods from milkweed plants before the pods pop open, and send them to Monarch Watch, which will grow new milkweed plants with them to send on to other schools and institutions interested in helping create an environment for the monarchs.

The effort of Putman and the students with this project earned the Voorheesville garden Monarch Waystation certification from Monarch Watch.

Waystation certification is given to places that properly create a habitat for the monarchs and maintain food sources for them during all life stages.

Not only are the students helping a creature that is the state insect for seven states, they are learning in the process.

“Hands-on explorative learning is so exciting to the kids,” Putman said, concluding, “Learning is easy when you make it so fun.”

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