Monday April 22, 2019
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US Fifth Graders Learning Gardening And Help Save the Monarch Butterfly

Eleven-year-old Amelia Jakum loves to observe nature, and gets excited for the discoveries she makes in the garden.

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Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plants the P.B. Smith students grew from seeds in their butterfly garden.
Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plants the P.B. Smith students grew from seeds in their butterfly garden. VOA

P.B. Smith Elementary School in Warrenton, Virginia, is one of a growing number of schools around the United States that have vegetable gardens. Teaching children about gardening gives them a chance to get hands-on experience with growing and eating vegetables, learning about nutrition and nature in the process. Last year, this school’s beautiful, well-kept green space got a valuable addition — a garden filled with plants that attract butterflies.

Learning about butterflies

In class, members of the P.B. Smith Elementary School’s ecology club learn about butterflies — monarch butterflies, in particular. They talk about the need for certain plants for an organism to survive. They learn about life cycles, from eggs to larva, pupa and adult.

But the learning is not complete without the hands-on part. Ecology Club teacher Barbara Dennee said that happens when her class visits the garden. There, they wait patiently to see this life cycle unfold.

The students’ patience was rewarded when monarch butterflies landed in their garden. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants, which have been disappearing due to the use of herbicides and unfavorable weather conditions. That means monarchs have fewer places to stop their migration journey between Canada and Mexico.

“We had probably about a dozen monarchs, and in years past, we never had any,” Dennee said. “So, we feel like we’ve definitely been a good station for the monarchs. Once they emerge from their chrysalis, they fly away. They know where to go. I don’t know how to go to Mexico, but they do. They follow the sun, and the kids have helped them in that.”

A monarch butterfly rests on a milkweed plant in the P.B. Smith Elementary School butterfly garden.
A monarch butterfly rests on a milkweed plant in the P.B. Smith Elementary School butterfly garden. VOA

Observations and discoveries

Eleven-year-old Amelia Jakum loves to observe nature, and gets excited for the discoveries she makes in the garden.

“We saw several swallowtails, caterpillars,” she said. “There is this really fat one that should be turning to chrysalis very soon. I’m quite surprised at how it can turn into chrysalis. And just how does its body form into a beautiful body of a butterfly?”

The kids’ excitement motivated them to learn more about butterflies, how they survive and what plants they feed on, particularly milkweeds.

“That’s the host for the butterfly, the monarch especially,” Dennee explained. “We planted from seeds the milkweed plant. Today, we didn’t see any monarchs, but we did see swallowtail caterpillars. They like dill and parsley. So, the kids learn that different kinds of butterflies are not competing for the food. They live harmoniously.”

Ten-year-old Keenan Whitney said learning about butterflies was an eye-opener.

“I only thought they pollinated one flower, for some reason. But I learned they pollinated a lot of flowers, and that if we didn’t have butterflies, we probably wouldn’t have any food. We wouldn’t be alive,” he said.

When kids become that aware of the interconnections between humans and nature, Dennee said, it means her club succeeded in its mission.

A Black Swallowtail caterpillar nibbles on parsley, a favorite meal.
A Black Swallowtail caterpillar nibbles on parsley, a favorite meal. VOA

“One of our missions for the Ecology Club is to be good stewards of the earth, and they can save this world,” she said. “They can say these words, but they don’t really understand until they actually do something.”

A gift to her old school

When the ecology club created its vegetable garden a couple of years ago, students started to learn how to plant and harvest a variety of herbs and vegetables. They give part of the produce to the school’s cafeteria and donated the rest to a local food bank.

Adding a new garden to attract butterflies was the brainchild of Keely Scott, a former student who has always been involved in school activities and clubs. Last year, the high school student needed a Girl Scout project. She went back to P.B. Smith and created a butterfly garden.

A male monarch butterfly displays the species' distinctive black and orange pattern.
A male monarch butterfly displays the species’ distinctive black and orange pattern. VOA

“We had a butterfly bush at my house,” she said. “We actually had to cut it down when we built our deck, and I missed it so much. I loved looking at the butterflies and to increase its population in our area. I thought I can fix that. So, I developed this idea, and Mrs. Dennee supported me 100 percent.”

School principal Linda Payne Smith said Scott not only presented her old school with a beautiful garden, she also served as a positive role model for its students.

Honeybees also visit the tropical milkweed plants
Honeybees also visit the tropical milkweed plants. VOA

Also read: Is gardening safe in polluted cities? New study says ‘Yes’

“We want the kids to take ownership of those gardens and come back like our senior Keely Scott has come back and created the butterfly garden,” she said. “We hope that their love for the environment started at P.B. Smith, that we have seen it evolve.” (VOA)

Next Story

Iran Denounces US as Actual “Head of Global Terrorism”

China, an economic partner of Iran, urged countries outside the Middle East to promote peace and stability in the region and to avoid any acts of aggression

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iran, terrorism
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony marking "National Day of Nuclear Technology," in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2019. VOA

Steve Herman contributed to this report from the White House; Carla Babb – from the Pentagon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denounced the United States Tuesday as the actual “head of global terrorism,” one day after the U.S. designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

The move was the first time the U.S. designated part of another government as a terrorist organization.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump declared in a statement. “The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”

The U.S. action, which takes effect next week and includes the IRGC’s elite secretive Quds Force, means it will be a federal crime to provide any type of support to the IRGC.

iran, terrorism
In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting with a group of Revolutionary Guards and their families, in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2019. VOA

Rouhani said the U.S. designation would only bolster the reputation of the Revolutionary Guards and promote harmony among Iranians.

“This mistake will unite Iranians and the Guards will grow more popular in Iran and in the region,” Rouhani said. “America has used terrorists as a tool in the region while the Guards have fought against them from Iraq to Syria.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed a group of guards Tuesday, describing the U.S. action as a “vicious move” that “will bear no fruit.” After Iran’s legislature convened for an open session in Tehran Tuesday, lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted, “Death to America.”

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the U.S. decision as the “climax of stupidity and ignorance.” Supreme National Security Council spokesman Keivan Khosravi warned without elaborating that “any unusual move by American forces in the region will be perceived as the behavior by a terrorist group.”

China, an economic partner of Iran, urged countries outside the Middle East to promote peace and stability in the region and to avoid any acts of aggression.

iran, terrorism
After Iran’s legislature convened for an open session in Tehran Tuesday, lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted, “Death to America.” VOA

“We oppose power politics and bullying by any countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

Minutes after the announcement from the White House on the designation Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated the IRGC “organizes and executes terror campaigns around the world.”

ALSO READ: “Chinese Human Traffickers Operating Illegal Matchmaking in Pakistan”, Says Pakistan Media

U.S. officials, in comments to reporters, are also referring to the IRGC as a “death cult” that, they say, is the true face of Iranian foreign policy.

Pompeo declined to say, when asked by a reporter, whether the terrorist designation means that the U.S. military will target IRGC leaders the same way it does those of the Islamic State group. Iran responded Monday to the U.S. action by putting U.S. military forces on its list of terror groups. (VOA)