Three educators who understand the potential educational opportunities that arise when Monarchs, schoolyard gardens and students are put together: Dr. Charles Watson, Jennifer Clements and Principal Chris Grey.
Perhaps its true that what we think about we see more of, as lately I’ve been getting a heavy dose of seemingly serendipitous connections to Monarchs and Monarch-loving people.
For example, just last Saturday (December 12, 2015) Beth Dattomo, Mayor Athas’ brilliant assistant, stopped over in the afternoon to review the possibility of submitting a proposal for grant money for a schoolyard garden. It so happens the proposal must be submitted to the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab by 11:59 PM tonight (Tuesday Dec. 15).
Then, shortly after Beth left on Saturday, Charlie, who was fossil hunting near Gainesville, Texas called me to excitedly report that he saw a Monarch butterfly. Imagine that! December 12 in North Texas and Monarch is sighted.
I have written the proposal for the schoolyard Monarch Garden at Watson. At the moment it is being reviewed by Jennifer Clements, a teacher at Watson Technology Center here in Garland, Texas who will be the team leader for this project. Jennifer is also collecting the necessary signatures and will send them to me this evening. Fortunately the proposal can be submitted electronically tonight to the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab.
Greenhouse at Watson Technology Center, Garland, Texas—Getting ready for a whole lot of Milkweed and a great Monarch Habitat--in fact, two of them!
At 11 AM today I drove over to Watson Technology Center to deliver the draft of the proposal to Jennifer. It just so happened that the principal of the school was chatting in the hall with Dr. Charles “Matt” Watson who is a Professor of Biology at Midwestern State University. Dr. Watson’s son attends Watson. Dr. Watson is helping one of his doctoral students in setting up an experiment with growing milkweed in part of the garden area of the school near where their lovely greenhouse is located. At the moment I don’t know the details of this study but I hope to learn more regarding what they are measuring.
Dr. Charles M. Watson is an integrative evolutionary biologist with interest and training in physiology, biogeography, biodiversity, conservation, and evolutionary ecology. His current projects integrate field ecology, physiological laboratory trials, and GIS technology to answer broad-scale evolutionary and ecological questions.
Principal Grey is a leader who obviously can not only collaborate effectively with people from various walks of life and absorb new ideas quickly, he is also a person who does not lose sight of his responsibility to look out for students. I was very impressed that he could chat with us and still be able to see a small girl running down the hall and gently stop her and caution for her safety to not run in the hall.
And Monarch Mania continues with a Monarch Webinar featuring our Mayor Athas as one of the speakers.
From 3 to 4 PM this afternoon, I attended an informative webinar on the topic of Monarchs that was hosted by Patrick Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Community Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation. Our Mayor Athas was one of the featured speakers along with Lajuan Tucker from Austin Texas and Catherine Werner from St. Louis. Mayor Athas pointed out that the state of Texas is solidly behind Monarch and pollinator awareness. He is right and you can expect a lot of good programs to be coming out of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to support the Monarch—our state insect. Many statewide organizations are joining hands to assist in bringing back the Monarch population.
Pollinators—from bees to butterflies—are a critical link in our food chain.: Although some plant species rely on wind or water to transfer pollen from one flower to the next, the vast majority (almost 90%) of all plant species need the help of animals for this task. There are approximately 200,000 different species of animals around the world that act as pollinators. Of these, about 1,000 are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, and the rest are invertebrates, including flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees. [SOURCE: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wildlife Habitat Management Institute – Native Pollinators -
http://plants.usda.gov/pollinators/Native_Pollinators.pdf - accessed 9/29/2015]
Why Schoolyard gardens?
Schoolyard gardens are a natural classroom for students of all ages—from 5 to 105. The garden offers infinite possibilities for learning. A garden is like a river. It is constantly changing. Heraclitus once said that one could never step into the same river twice—a profound statement that is nonetheless true for a garden. Formats for lessons in the garden are not limited to botany, science and agriculture. The garden can teach lessons in all phases of human endeavor—from ethics to ecology, from math to art. Gardens have an important role to play in the education of our children and I'm glad that my community recognizes their importance to our children.