By Trevor Suffield
Oct. 9, 2008
If you build it, they will come.
Not baseball players — but butterflies.
Students and staff at Lord Nelson School in the North End recently built three butterfly gardens in hopes of attracting the beautiful creatures to their school.
The gardens are located at the front of the school where they will get the most exposure to sunshine and will be a welcome site for those walking and driving along McPhillips Street.
Kindergarten to Grade 6 students at the school were excited to help to fill in garden boxes with dirt last week, as they ran carrying their makeshift pails brought from home.
In order to attract butterflies to the gardens, the school plans to plant a variety of perennial plants native to Manitoba including Swamp Milkweed, New England Aster and Meadow Blazingstar. The plants were chosen because they are hardy enough to survive Winnipeg’s harsh climate.
The idea for the butterfly gardens was first suggested following a conference that five Lord Nelson teachers attended as part of the Monarch Teachers Network. The MTN is comprised of Canadian teachers and educators from across the country with the goal of promoting a global community and environmental awareness among kindergarten to Grade 10 students. The network also has partners in the United States and Mexico.
Teachers Kim Lynam, Darlene Selsky, Peggy Graham, Gerry Daly and Monique Russell formed a committee charged with adding colour, green space and awareness to the surrounding community.
The project was made possible thanks to a $3,800 grant the school received from the provincial government’s Environmental Youth Corps program. The aim of the program is to promote awareness and protection of the environment among young people.
Lynam, a Grade 3 teacher, says more than 75 hours of volunteer effort have been contributed to the project and she expects that number to climb. Students, staff and parent volunteers will be enlisted to help with the upkeep of the gardens.
Selsky, a Grade 3 teacher, says that new elements will be continually added to the gardens in an effort to upgrade green space in the community.
“This is a school initiative but will be a community project that will be a valuable experience to encourage environmental awareness today and tomorrow,” added Russell, a Grade 4 teacher.
Lord Nelson students will have an opportunity to track what happens to the garden’s winged visitors when they migrate south.
They will be able to trace the migratory path of the butterflies as they fly from Winnipeg to Mexico by means of numbered stickers that will be placed on the dorsal area of the butterflies’ wings.
Once the butterflies arrive south of the border, volunteers in Mexico will record the numbers in a searchable online database that students can log into. Students will learn about math and geography as they follow the progress of the butterflies.
Melanie Ducharme, who is in Russell’s Grade 4 class, said her favorite butterfly is the Monarch. She doesn’t expect to visit any of them in Mexico any time soon.
“Sometimes I wish I could, but I really can’t go because I’m just a kid and I can’t fly by myself to Mexico,” she said.
Four Ash trees and one American Elm were also planted in the school’s playground as part of the project.