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Monarch Recovery Garden

monarch butterflyThe monarch butterfly has captured the imagination of adults and children alike. This stunning species is not only beautiful—it is the only species of butterfly that makes a two-way migration. The monarch cannot tolerate the northern cold, so it migrates south to the mountains of Mexico for the winter, sometimes flying as far as 3,000 miles from its summer home in Canada, and then it journeys north again in the spring.

Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly is in serious trouble. Its population has declined by more than 90 percent in the past two decades. The decline of the monarch butterfly and many other pollinators has potentially alarming consequences for natural ecosystems, including food production.

Studying the monarch butterfly provides students the opportunity to engage in and be empowered to help solve current and tangible “real-life” environmental problems. The monarch butterfly is a species students often see in their schoolyards, backyards, and parks. Using place-based learning, students learn the importance of pollinators, develop recovery plans, and implement effective solutions—such as creating monarch gardens with native nectar and milkweed plants—making a direct and positive impact for the species.

Creating a Safe Space for Monarchs

A viable monarch garden includes native nectar and milkweed plants. It can be as simple and small as one or more 32-square-foot raised beds, or may be a larger pocket prairie project of 1/8-acre or more. The size of the area you choose and the overall design will depend on the amount of suitable space available, your budget, and the goals for the outdoor classroom. For tips on getting started, read the National Wildlife Federation’s guide to installing, using, and maintaining a schoolyard garden for monarchs.