Students from Pacific Union College recently visited Howell Mountain Elementary School (HME), a local public school, to teach second- and third-grade students all about monarch butterflies and to involve them hands-on in the learning process!
The students discussed the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, including the importance of milkweed as nutrition and as a habitat crucial for monarch reproduction.
“The HME project was a great opportunity for these college students to connect with the elementary kids,” said Professor Aimee Wyrick, chair of PUC’s department of biology. “It reminds them of the amazing curiosity that kids have about the world around them—gives college students an additional excitement or ‘spark’ when they see the schoolkids enjoying the experience. The PUC students were also impressed with the HME elementary students; they were very engaged in asking/answering questions. College students also get a chance to practice their interpersonal and leadership skills—directing the session and interacting with each other and a wide range of students.”
The kids were enthusiastic learners, and the PUC students on hand were happy to answer question after question. One item that got a lot of attention was the fact that milkweed is poisonous to animals like cows and even to crops, so it’s important to plant it in places where it can sustain monarchs but still be safe.
“How does it poison crops?” asked a second-grader named Gavin, who got a detailed answer about allelopathy, in which chemicals in the roots of milkweed transfer to the roots of other plants.
At the end of the presentation, each student was given soil, trays, and a very special milkweed seed donated by local community member Randy Dunn. The resulting plants will eventually create an environment capable of sustaining and maintaining a monarch population!
Each student filled their pots with care and anxiously chased any seeds that flew away. Writing their names on sticks to place next to their plants, their excitement was obvious as the children looked forward to welcoming monarch butterflies to their school.
“We are caring for the milkweed seedlings for the time being and will return to the HME campus later this spring to plant other established native plants,” said Wyrick. “The milkweed will likely be big enough to transplant in October, and the group will visit once again to outplant these milkweed.”
PUC plans to bring the monarch butterfly project to other local schools in the future, including nearby Adventist schools.
By Ashley Eisele