Education

Published on June 13th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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District Five magnet school students, staff continue work on monarch butterfly tracking project

Students from Irmo Middle School held a groundbreaking ceremony on the school’s new milkweed garden as part of a project to impact declining populations of monarch butterflies.

IRMO – Work continues this summer on a Lexington-Richland School District Five magnet school’s project aimed at impacting the declining population of monarch butterflies.

Irmo Middle School teacher Will Green and his students have planned several activities this summer to grow a new milkweed garden they started in May and further educate the public about the importance of the plant to monarchs. More than 200 people attended South Carolina screenings of the documentary film ‘Flight of the Butterflies” which was hosted by Irmo Middle and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation in May.

“One of our big goals with the project was not only community outreach and education but also empowering the community to take action, and that’s why we gave each person attending the screening milkweed seeds to plant,” Green said. “The response to our project was overwhelming. Everybody wants to find a cause that’s worthwhile and important, and our students immediately got behind this project which in turn inspired others.”

The project to tag, release and study monarch butterflies started in the classroom and spread throughout the community. Green said he posed the project to students at the beginning of the school year as a way of connecting classroom lessons to global issues and “charting new territory.”

“Our project is unique,” he said. “The Monarchs that we see in the southeast don’t necessarily fit the pattern of those in the Midwest. In fact, it’s not exactly known where some of them end up…maybe the Bahamas, Cuba or places like that. I decided that it would be an awesome thing for the students to tag them in hopes of filling in the missing data for the east coast Monarchs, helping to get a clear picture of where they end up. So, we’ll continue to track them and collect that data.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the international academic magnet school’s milkweed garden was held on May 15. Key sponsorships for the Irmo Middle School learning expedition project grew online through DonorsChoose.org. Earlier this school year, the Irmo Town Council heard a presentation from Irmo Middle School’s “Monarchs and Milkweed” project, a mission designed to save the monarch butterfly population. The global project was developed in alignment with the school’s internationally-focused magnet theme, school officials said.

“As an international academic magnet and Expeditionary Learning school, Irmo Middle students are actively engaged in learning through projects like this,” said Robert Jackson, principal of the school. “The dialogue and high level of student engagement involved in the project put students at the center of learning, prompting high-level depth of knowledge and strategic thinking. We are so proud of the exemplary work of Mr. Green and the students, and we look forward to the continue work and impact of this Irmo Middle School project.”

Monarch butterfly populations have dropped drastically in the last two decades, from around 1 billion in the mid-1990s to 35 million in 2013. Scientists attribute much of the decline to herbicides, which have wiped out milkweed plants, where monarch butterflies feed and lay their eggs.

Irmo Middle School staff and students hope distributing milkweed seeds and growing their own garden will help curb the problem and prompt others to act.

“The students really believe they can make a difference, and they have made a difference in their own way,” Green said. “So, the outcome of the project has been much more than we anticipated. I never expected the overwhelming response. I never expected the students to take ownership of this project the way they have …. As a teacher, when that happens, you go along with it and learn alongside your students. They are setting the tone for the future of the project.”

 

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