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Bear Branch Elementary Provides a ‘Rest Stop’ for Monarch Butterflies

The Monarch Waystation Program is part of Monarch Watch, a non-profit, educational outreach based at the University of Kansas whose purpose is to “Create, Conserve, and Protect Monarch Habitats.” The application process requires many hours of dedication by teachers, students, parents and Master Gardeners. In order to obtain Monarch Waystation Certification, certain criteria must be met. Documentation of milkweed, as well as a variety of other nectar plants, must be submitted.

JMG participants have been sharing facts about Monarch butterflies with fellow students. Haley, a fourth-grade JMG member stated, “I feel that helping the butterflies in the garden is magical. Watching them grow on the milkweed is one of the most spectacular things you’ll ever see.”

Melania, a fifth-grade JMG member adds, “It makes you feel really special to know you are a part of something so cool that helps butterflies as well as students’ education.”

The fourth and fifth graders in the JMG club meet every Monday morning at 7:30 to engage in a myriad of educational activities from maintaining beds of native plants, to growing their own vegetables from seed in the school’s greenhouse, to planting, weeding and growing host/nectar plants for the school’s Butterflies and Blooms Garden.

The JMG program is an extension of Texas A&M Agrilife and part of the Master Gardener Association. It is designed to “engage children in novel, hands-on group and individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment and cultivate the mind.” (JMGkids.org)

Master Gardeners from Montgomery County assisted with the garden’s design and supplied information regarding native plants. The Montgomery County Beautification Association, Home Depot, Boy Scouts and Girl Scout troops provided plants, trellises, benches and arbors while kindergarteners decorated stepping stones. Mrs. Allen states that the children have “learned how to provide natural habitats necessary for the butterflies and the importance of the types of plants needed for them.” The Butterfly Garden “gives the students a personal connection with protecting the environment.”

The group also participates in programs and presentations provided by Montgomery County Master Gardeners. Carla Allen and Sue Buchholz, teachers at Bear Branch, sponsor the groups. They work with Master Gardener, Merrie Decker, to plan activities that teach the children various aspects of gardening. Parents and Master Gardeners have teamed with the campus educators for the past 5 years to contribute to the success of the JMG program.

JMG programs can be successful at school when teachers and administrators commit with Master Gardeners, families and community volunteers to make a difference in the environment. Besides enabling learning experiences not possible indoors, JMG expands students’ knowledge of career options, teaches responsibility and hard work, and presents occasions for decision-making, problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity. What an opportunity for our children to see the volunteer spirit and service to others in action! Bear Branch is grateful to all of the individuals, groups and businesses who have contributed to the success of their conservation project.