certified butterfly garden
The purpose of this student-led project was to create a habitat for pollinators that would provide food in the form of nectar and pollen, nesting areas, and safe places to lay eggs. The butterfly garden provided an opportunity for students to not only observe the entire life cycle of both native plants and pollinators but also observe the interactions between the two. Students worked in teams to select plants that would support native butterflies and other pollinators, design the layout of the garden, and plant, mulch, and care for the garden. Students even collected seeds from nearby native plants to grow in the garden.
Certified Butterfly Garden Project Overview
This student-led project was envisioned to create a habitat for pollinators that would meet all of their needs, from food in the form of nectar and pollen to nesting areas to safe places to lay eggs. The butterfly garden was designed to meet the needs of butterflies at all stages of life by providing multiple types of food, nectar-producing plants, and milkweed for monarchs specifically. Students chose to use only native plants and opted to not use any pesticides or herbicides. Students worked in teams to select plants that would support native butterflies and other pollinators, design the layout of the garden, and plant, mulch, and care for the garden. Students even collected seeds from nearby native plants to grow in the garden.
The butterfly garden provided an opportunity for students to not only observe the entire life cycle of both native plants and pollinators but also observe the interactions between the two. Students participated in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based lessons about ecosystem interactions, the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and the flow of energy, and human impacts on the environment. Students developed conservation solutions to environmental and biodiversity problems that they identified, including removal of invasive species, collection of seeds from native plants, planting only native species, choosing to use methods such as composting, mulching, and hand-weeding rather than using chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, and rearing monarch butterflies to release into the wild.
A bee visits a plant to feed on nectar
A monarch carterpillar feeds on milkweed
A bumble bee feeds on nectar
Partnerships with local businesses led to generous donations of plants, tools, and other landscaping supplies. Dropseed Nursery provided native plants and Ken-Mulch provided multiple kinds of mulch, soil, and gravel for this and other projects.
Students chose to certify the butterfly garden to ensure that it would meet the needs of butterflies and other pollinators. The space was recognized as a Certified Butterfly Garden through the North American Butterfly Association. In order to receive this certification, the garden had to meet specific requirements of containing native caterpillar food plants and native butterfly nectar sources, and the use of pesticides is discouraged. The space was also recognized as a Certified Monarch Garden through the North American Butterfly Association and a Monarch Watch Certified Monarch Waystation. In order to receive these certifications, the garden had to meet requirements specific to the needs of monarch butterflies including shelter to support monarchs through all life stages, milkweed plants to support monarchs during the breeding season and to feed caterpillars, and nectar plants to feed butterflies.
Certified Butterfly Garden
North American Butterfly Association
Meets the following requirements:
Certified Monarch Garden & Waystation
North American Butterfly Association
Monarch Watch Certified Waystation
Meets the following requirements:
Shelter. To assure that the maximum number of monarchs survive in your habitat, the plants should be relatively close together. However, they should not be crowded – be sure to follow the planting guides specific to each plant. All monarch life stages need shelter from predators and the elements. Planting milkweeds and nectar plants close together contributes to this shelter for monarchs and other wildlife.
Milkweed Plants. To maximize the use of your habitat by monarchs, we recommend that you have at least 10 milkweed plants, made up of two or more species; however, a large number of plants (more than 10) of one species is sufficient. Milkweeds of different species mature and flower at different times during the season. By increasing the number of milkweed species in your habitat you will increase the likelihood that monarchs will utilize your property for a longer period during the breeding season.
Nectar Plants. Monarchs, other butterflies, and numerous pollinators need nectar. By providing nectar sources that bloom sequentially or continuously during the season (as many butterfly plants do) your Monarch Waystation can provide resources for monarchs throughout the breeding season and the migration in the fall. A Monarch Waystation should contain several annual, biennial, or perennial plants that provide nectar for butterflies.
Community Science Projects
Seed collection - Students practice native plant conservation by learning how to collect, dry, and cold stratify seeds before germinating and planting
Biodiversity surveys - Students conduct surveys to measure species richness and diversity of flora and fauna in the butterfly garden, collect, analyze, and communicate data
Botanical surveys - Students conduct botanical surveys to list the native, nonnative, and invasive plant species in the area before and after the butterfly garden was planted, collect, analyze, and communicate data
The Certified Butterfly Garden was a success, attracting a wide variety of native pollinators including bees, beetles, ants, and of course, butterflies. Monarch butterfly caterpillars were discovered munching on milkweed plants in the garden and they went on to pupate and transform into monarch butterflies.
This project was important because it was a long-term, student-led project that not only provided opportunities to learn NGSS standards but more importantly, the opportunity to become real scientists and conservationists. Students identified problems, developed solutions, collected, analyzed, and shared data, and communicated the results of their work. They worked in small groups, classroom teams, and mixed-age groups after school, developed partnerships with local organizations and businesses, and collaborated with other community scientists from around the country and the world. Finally, students worked hard to create something that they were proud of. They made a difference and were empowered to be change-makers.
Middle School Next Generation Science Standards
MS-LS1-4 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS1-6 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-ESS3-3 Earth and Human Activity
Students who demonstrate understanding can: MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.