Oklahoma schools encouraged to plant gardens to help monarch butterflies

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is asking children and schools across the metro to help the monarch butterfly population.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that monarch butterflies have been put on the Endangered Species Act protection waitlist.

This decision means the butterfly’s status will be reviewed annually until the Wildlife Service either adds them to the Endangered Species List or denies the proposal.

A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is pictured at a butterfly farm in the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City on April 7, 2017.  Millions of monarch butterflies arrive each year to Mexico after travelling more than 4,500 kilometres from the United States and Canada. / AFP PHOTO / Pedro Pardo        (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is pictured at a butterfly farm in the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City on April 7, 2017. Millions of monarch butterflies arrive each year to Mexico after travelling more than 4,500 kilometres from the United States and Canada. / AFP PHOTO / Pedro Pardo (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

The most recent population counts show a decline of 85% for the eastern U.S. population that overwinters in Mexico and a decline of 99% for monarchs west of the Rockies, which overwinter in California.

Both populations are well below the thresholds at which scientists estimate the migrations could collapse.

The Wildlife Service itself has estimated up to an 80% probability of population collapse for eastern monarchs within 50 years and a 96-100% probability for the western population.

Now, the Oklahoma City Zoo is encouraging Oklahoma City metro schools to apply for the OKC Living Classroom Grant Program.

The program increases habitats for monarchs and other pollinators by creating gardens at their schools. The gardens include monarch host and nectar plants to provide a food source for monarchs along their migration pathway.

 “Creating a monarch garden is a unique, hands-on way for teachers to introduce their students to these valuable pollinators,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo’s director of conservation and science. “We hope this program inspires the next generation of Oklahomans to care about and help conserve pollinators and native habitat not only at their schools, but also in their communities, neighborhoods and own backyards.” 

Now through April 1, 2021, all public, private, and charter K-12 schools in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Yukon, Mustang, Moore, Midwest City, Del City, Norman, Bethany, Piedmont, Deer Creek, Choctaw and Warr Acres, are eligible to apply for the OKC Living Classroom Grant Program

A maximum of five grants will be awarded by Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Recipient schools will receive up to $1,500 to purchase garden supplies. Plus, teachers from each location will receive training on how to incorporate their new gardens and program related curriculum into their classes. Since 2018, 13 OKC Living Classroom grants have been awarded to local schools.

“Teaching educators about the monarch butterfly is a direct path of wider engagement about this incredible creature,” said Lily Peppers, director of education for Myriad Botanical Gardens. “Watching teachers be amazed by the new things they learn about monarchs is inspiring. Taking the information provided by this program back to their students helps foster an appreciation for monarch butterflies, and nature as a whole.”

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