Why do Pollinators Matter?
"Pollinators" of all kinds are indicator species that reflect the health of the planet. The impact that climate change, habitat destruction and pesticides are having on ALL species is alarming. Not only are they beautiful, but the decrease in the number of pollinators has an important bearing on the security and abundance of our food.
What can you and your school do to help?
Building pollinator gardens is an activity that schools are embracing across the United States and Mexico. A pollinator garden is an all-encompassing STEM teaching tool, especially suited for ecological and sustainability studies.
How To Plant A Monarch Garden
The most obvious need for pollinating species is a diversity of nectar and pollen sources. Consider the following when choosing plants for your garden:
- Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. HOW TO PLANT YOUR SCHOOLYARD BUTTERFLY GARDEN is a comprehensive, 2-page summary from our strategic partner, Monarch Joint Venture.
- Plant in clumps, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators.
- Provide a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators. NAPPC’s Pollinator Syndrome table provides information on the types of flowers that different pollinator groups (bats, hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, etc.) find attractive.
- Whenever possible, choose plants native to your area. Native plants will attract native pollinators and serve as larval host plants for certain species. Research which plants supply food to the butterfly larvae local to your area. Your students can help!
Pollinator-friendly plants for your area can be found in NAPPC's Ecoregional Planting Guides. Contact your local or state native plant society for help. HERE are some links for finding native plant sources and societies near you. Speaking of native plants, there are often unintended consequences when non-natives are introduced into an ecosystem. This New York Times Article highlights the importance of using milkweed native to your area
Activities and Curriculum
Join the Gardening & Pollinators Resource Group!
Recommended to Alliance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this U.S. Forest Service site offers a great list of activities and K-12 curriculum all in one location, including links to the Monarch Butterfly Manual and the Butterfly Activity Guide (described below).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Protección de la Fauna Mexicana A.C. (Profauna A.C.), a Mexican non-governmental organization, developed The Monarch Butterfly Manual, Royal Mail: A Manual for the Environmental Educator. This manual was developed for grades Pre-K through 12 and offers activities that promote conservation of the Monarch Butterfly. Each activity includes an overview, background information, and a sidebar that highlights the skills and concepts students will use, along with the learning objectives they will meet. You can download the entire guide, or each individual activity. (PDF 17 MB)
The Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI) was established in 2001. BCFI is a partnership between the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Partnerships and Outreach. BFCI has an educational mission that includes the promotion, protection, and restoration of native North American butterflies and their habitats. They have developed a variety of educational initiatives including programs, special events and exhibits, interpretive signage, curriculum, workshops, and activism. BFCI has created a Butterfly Activity Guide in partnership with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the National Wildlife Federation. (PDF, 335 KB)
Monarchs in the Classroom
Monarchs in the Classroom aims to promote and facilitate inquiry-based education through original curricula and research opportunities. We use monarchs and other insects as focal organisms in inquiry-based teacher workshops and conduct an annual Insect Fair to spotlight student research. The monarch butterfly serves as an excellent tool to get students excited about science and to teach inquiry in the classroom. Monarchs in the Classroom is a program of University of Minnesota Extension and the University of Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.
Also see the 4H Butterfly Curriculum >
Monarch Butterfly Migration Maps
Hosted by Alliance partner, Monarch Joint Venture, you can follow simple instructions and embed the map on your school website here >
Monarch Watch strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. We engage in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration. We also promote protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.
Journey North engages citizen scientists in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles — and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events. Find migration maps, images, standards-based lesson plans, activities and information to help students make local observations and fit them into a global context. Widely considered a best-practices model for education, Journey North is the nation's premiere citizen science project for children. The general public is welcome to participate.
The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project is a citizen science project involving volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. It was developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota to collect long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat. The overarching goal of the project is to better understand how and why monarch populations vary in time and space, with a focus on monarch distribution and abundance during the breeding season in North America.
Monarch Health is a project in which volunteers sample wild monarch butterflies to help track the spread of a protozoan parasite across North America.
Distance Learning and Webinars
Hosted by Alliance partners US Fish & Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center and Monarch Joint Venture, the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Webinar Series is exciting and comprehensive for students of every age!
It covers topics such as:
- Monarch Biology and Conservation Basics
- Habitat Restoration and Fundamentals
- Enhancing Existing Landscapes for Monarch/Native Pollinators
- Contribution of Monarch Citizen Science and Program Overviews
- Monarch Research and Advanced Topics
Planting Your Garden
- HOW TO PLANT YOUR SCHOOLYARD BUTTERFLY GARDEN
- NAPPC's Ecoregional Planting Guides
- Pollinator Syndrome
- Information on finding native plants and native plant societies for your area
- New York Times Article: Monarchs May Be Loved To Death
The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States. The MJV is committed to a science-based approach to monarch conservation work, guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008).
This US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service page serves as a gateway to news, information, activities, and resources about the biology and conservation of monarch butterflies.