By YES! Coordinator Sarah Gainey
On Friday, February 26, middle school students from North Junior High in St Cloud and Sartell Middle School immersed themselves in learning about the importance of native plants and got their hands a little dirty to help monarch butterflies! Both teams have potential native plant garden projects in the works at their schools and used this day to help move that project along.
At their respective schools, students first learned about plants native to Minnesota from Bre Bauerly, Outreach Coordinator at Minnesota Native Landscapes. Bre shared her career path and history at her company with the students, which includes years in the production and land management side of native plantings. Bre then presented the Do’s and Don’ts of Native Gardening and informed the students about what native plants are, why they are good for the environment, and best practices for installing a native garden. The students learned how to pick and place the best plants for their site based on the individual plants bloom times, moisture needs, flower color, and height. The North Junior High students also brought Bre outside to scout out a few potential planting sites and discussed the next steps of their project.
The students then watched as some of their teammates ‘transformed’ into the life cycle stages of a monarch butterfly. Saint John’s Outdoor University staff used the butterfly dress-up as a fun way to inform students about the amazing migration story of monarchs. They also discussed the problem of the disappearance of milkweed along the monarchs’ migration pathway. As the most important food source and egg laying location for monarchs, milkweed is vital for their survival. The students then got their hands dirty as they made milkweed seed ‘Botany Balls.’ By combining a few milkweed seeds in soil then surrounding it with air clay, the students created something they got to take home to let dry, then throw later in the spring into an area where milkweed can grow.
The teams at North Junior High and Sartell Middle School now are better informed regarding the importance of native plants and how their direct actions can help the survival of species such as Monarchs.