Monarch Heroes is a two-year, project-based learning program in Texas that engages and empowers students and community members to create Schoolyard Habitats in support of both the monarch butterfly and outdoor learning. Since 2015, there have been nearly 200 Monarch Heroes campuses across six cities in Texas. Their combined efforts have amounted to nearly 1.5 acres of native wildlife habitat (as of 2022) for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators and wildlife.
Below is a walk-through of what it is like to be a Monarch Heroes campus:
In the first year of the program, your students learn about the epic migration of the monarch butterfly and how its population has declined by as much as 90% in the past 20 years. This leads to discussion about what they can do to help. They begin by completing the Eco-Schools USA Schoolyard Habitats Pre-Audit, and making a list of goals they would like to accomplish by the end of the school year to help the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.
Monarch Heroes has helped our students make connections with how they impact nature and how they can provide for nature… They are beginning to realize they have such a large role to play – to keep things clean and make it a welcoming place for all creatures. - Julie Meacham, Winn Elementary, Austin, TX
Using the National Wildlife Federation bilingual Monarch Mission curriculum (or the Spanish edition) as well as the Schoolyard Habitats Planning Guide and other resources, your campus team creates and maintains your Monarch Heroes habitat garden and encourages interdisciplinary use of the space. These gardens serve as critical sources of both native milkweed and nectar plants for monarch butterflies migrating through Texas. After creating the habitat garden, your school is eligible to certify as a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat and receive a sign to display in your garden area.
In the second year, your students improve the biodiversity of the Monarch Heroes habitat through enhancing and expanding the square footage of the garden space. They begin the school year by completing the Eco-Schools USA Biodiversity Pre-Audit and updating the list of goals they began in the first year.
Then, they collect valuable citizen science data through Journey North, iNaturalist, and other programs to understand how the changes they are making to their habitat garden changes your school campus biodiversity over time.
I really like being with my friends and learning about plants… We put the tag on the wing and let the monarch go. I learned that there are many kinds...all the butterflies are beautiful! - Neela, First Grade student at Mathews Elementary, Austin, TX
Your students also learn to grow milkweed and nectar plants from seed to sustain the native habitat on campus and to help spread its impact further into your school community.
My students loved seeing the monarchs in the garden. When we started tagging monarchs, they wouldn't leave our room unless we had our net and tags with us - just in case we saw one that needed tagging. It was heartwarming to see the joy on their faces when they would spot a monarch. Their smiles said it all! Seeing the monarchs in our garden made them want to learn more about what they could do to create monarch gardens at their home too, "so my little brother could also see them". - Isabel Anaya, Kuentz Elementary, San Antonio, TX
Finally, your campus team shares its successes through an annual monarch showcase on their school grounds or through a larger community event such as the annual Monarch Heroes and Eco-Schools USA Showcase in Austin, TX. Teams that cannot participate in person create videos to showcase their project work through the eyes and voices of their students
They see the beauty of animals and plants and they not only appreciate it but want to share it with everyone!... They couldn't believe the butterflies could actually find the flowers we planted. - Romie Tafoya, Bailey Middle School, Austin, TX
To learn more or get notified of upcoming grant opportunities, workshops or volunteer opportunities, check out our regional education website or contact one of the program contacts below:
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.