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Creating a Monarch Habitat

Studying pollinators and the monarch butterfly gives students the opportunity to become engaged in and empowered to help solve a current and tangible ‘real-life’ environmental problem. The monarch butterfly is a species that students can have a direct positive impact on that they see in their schoolyards, their backyards and their parks. The study of the monarch butterfly also lends itself beautifully to a project-based learning approach: Students learn the importance of pollinators, develop plans, and implement effective solutions—such as creating monarch gardens with native nectar and milkweed plants—that can make a concrete difference for the species.

Create a Monarch Habitat on Your Campus

A viable monarch garden can be as small and simple as one or more 4X8 raised beds that include both native nectar and milkweed plants or a larger pocket prairie project that could be 1/8 acre or more. The size of the area you choose and the overall design depend on the amount of suitable space you have, your budget and the goals for your outdoor classroom. Below are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Make sure that the site you choose has been approved by your facilities department
  2. Choose a sunny, open location
  3. Use large splashes of color
  4. Select a diversity of native plants including native milkweed
  5. Provide shade and protection –woodland, thicket, vines, grasses
  6. Provide a puddling area. Puddling areas provide water and the minerals butterflies need for breeding
  7. Design with rock borders
  8. Watch your watering – soaker hoses and drip irrigation are best
  9. Say no to pesticides

Helpful Resources to Get You Started

Site selection, Planning and Design

National Wildlife Federation How-To Guide for Schoolyard Habitats

Site selection is key to any successful gardening project. For a great class activity to help you choose the right site while engaging your students in meaningful science and math applications refer to the Site Inventory Activity in Part IV of the National Wildlife Federation How-To Guide for Schoolyard Habitats

Monarch Joint Venture Schoolyard Butterfly Gardens
For tips on designing and installing your garden refer to the Monarch Joint Venture Schoolyard Butterfly Gardens Fact sheet. You can download this fact sheet and many more wonderful resources from Monarch Joint Venture.

Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota
For information on planting a monarch garden, creating and using a schoolyard garden, and garden grants visit the Gardening for Monarch page.

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