MONARCH SISTER SCHOOLS PROGRAM – MSSP 2.0
The Monarch Sister Schools Program (www.monarchsisterschools.org) was created by the educational nonprofit Natural Partners to involve students in a real environmental problem: namely, the ongoing destruction of Monarch butterflies’ habitat in the U.S. and Canada (driven by herbicide use on farms) and of their over-wintering habitat in Mexico (due to illegal logging), resulting in a precipitous decline of the Monarchs population. Through hands-on projects, students learn about the habitat, life cycle and amazing migration of the Monarchs, while collaborating across borders on projects to restore habitat for future Monarch generations.
STUDENT ‘ACTION AREAS’
The Monarch Sister Schools Program (MSSP) engages students in three action areas:
1) Habitat Restoration. The Program empowers young people to make a difference through hands-on projects at schools to help restore habitat areas of the Monarch butterfly. In the U.S. the ‘vehicle’ of habitat restoration is the planting and maintenance of a Butterfly Habitat Garden by students. At schools in Mexico, the ‘vehicle’ is the creation of a schoolyard Tree Nursery to produce native tree saplings to reforest logged areas of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Students and their adult sponsors are assisted in forming Green Teams responsible for these hands-on projects.
2) Hands-on Learning. The Butterfly Habitat Gardens at U.S. schools and Tree Nurseries at Mexican schools serve as outdoor classrooms where children can be in touch with nature and learn in a participatory way about the natural world and, specifically, the Monarch’s habitat, life cycle and migration using high-quality lesson plans. This is important in an era where children increasingly have been confined to the indoors and “taught to the test” at schools. Besides curriculum workshops teachers are offered one-on-one coaching in using materials aligned with Common Core standards.
3) Cultural Exchange. U.S. schools can partner with a ‘sister school’ located inside of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and, in the process, engage in a vibrant cultural exchange, enhanced by class-to-class Skype sessions in which students learn presentations skills as they exchange information on their respective Monarch habitat restoration projects. These exchanges inspire interest in the other’s history, geography, and language. PenPal exchanges are also available.
SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES & SUPPORT (by Action Area)
1) Habitat Restoration.
·Butterfly Habitat Garden – Garden layout & selection of local native plants / Supply of plants / Oversight of students on planting day / Educational signs to identify the native plant species / Optional certification of habitat gardens as a “Monarch Way Stations”.
·Green Team or Garden Club – Assistance in recruiting parents and other community volunteers / Curriculum of outdoor & indoor activities / Edible garden project – to engage parents & students over the summer / List of available garden grants / Orientation in applying for funding.
2) Hands-on Learning.
·With first-year membership, a copy of Monarchs and More curriculum guide with lesson plans.
·Monarch Curriculum Workshop for teachers of participating schools (annually in September).
·One-on-one coaching of teachers to help in adoption of recommended lesson plans is available.
·Spring tour for teachers & Garden Club members of local nursery to see how plants are grown.
3) Cultural Exchange.
·Arrangement of a ‘sister school’ partner in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
·Exchange of letters and photos to formalize the partnership with the Mexican sister school.
·Class-to-class sessions organized thematically so that U.S. and Mexican students can:
-Get acquainted and share information on their respective school and community.
-Make Presentations on their butterfly habitat garden or tree nursery projects.
-Discuss the Monarch’s “incredible journey” connecting U.S. and Mexican students.
-Explore history & cultural traditions related to the Monarchs in Mexico, including the intriguing ‘Day of the Dead’ celebration on November 2nd when Monarchs are arriving.
·A Joint Tree Nursery project (optional) with the sister school to help reforest winter habitat.
·Annual Trip to ‘Monarch Country’ to visit sister schools and Monarch winter sanctuaries.
To date, over 35 schools have planted gardens and participated in other ways in the Program.
Membership is available to all schools that wish to involve their students in helping save the Monarch’s unique migration and using a habitat garden as a hands-on learning venue. The annual fee is just $250.
Benefits. To get started, we help you complete our ‘Menu of Activities’, so we can know which activities you wish to do. Based on your inputs, we prepare a draft Participation Plan to discuss with you with a draft timeline and budget. Based on the budget, we then help you apply for grants to fund your plan.
New member schools receive a copy of the Monarchs and More curriculum guide and an invitation to attend our annual Monarch Curriculum Workshop.
Other membership benefits include:
·Participation in our member school blog to exchange information on gardens, lesson plans, etc.
·A webpage on the Program website (www.monarchsisterschools.org) for your school to post text and photos about your habitat garden and other activities.
·A “funders list” for small garden grant and other support you may need.
·Tips in using the ‘Causes’ app on Facebook to fundraise.
·Email updates and invitations for MSSP garden and curriculum activities.
·The option to partner with a sister school in Mexico for a cultural exchange.
·Eligibility to participate in our annual Trip to Monarch Country in Mexico.
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For more information, contact Kelly Lawhorn at KellyLawhorn1@gmail.com or (240) 997-5185.
Natural Partners -- a 501(c)(3) Educational Nonprofit
4740 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 1012
Washington, DC 20008