Students plant, create feeders for monarch butterflies for Earth Day

Anna Letaw, volunteer at Linton Springs Elementary School, works with second graders at the school's milkweed bed on Earth Day.
Anna Letaw, volunteer at Linton Springs Elementary School, works with second graders at the school's milkweed bed on Earth Day. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

ELDERSBURG - Second-graders at Linton Springs Elementary School circled around parent volunteer Anna Letaw, who had a small shovel in hand, waiting to receive instructions.

Monday was the first day of the school's three-day Earth Day celebration. Students in all grades will take part in projects that relate to monarch butterflies, the event's theme.


Letaw showed the students how to plant cosmos flower in the school's nectaring garden full of nectar-producing plants used for pollination. The nectaring garden is just a short distance from four monarch butterfly garden beds, which will be used for conducting research and have been filled with milkweed.

"This is the type of flower [butterflies] prefer," she said of the cosmos flower.

According to gifted and talented resource teacher Alaina Haerbig, each grade will complete a craft activity and an environmental action piece during one of the three days.

Kindergarteners will make stained glass butterflies and will learn about each life cycle stage of a butterfly. Third-graders will make a butterfly feeder and will eliminate invasive plants from the school's stream site and surrounding areas.

Fourth-graders will make butterfly-themed origami and work on newly constructed solar beds that were built by Century High School students. Fifth-graders will also be making butterfly-themed origami and will be installing wire butterfly sculptures they made in art class.

In addition to planting in the nectaring garden, first- and second-graders made butterfly feeders and investigated the four beds of the monarch butterfly garden. The school received grant money to create the monarch butterfly garden located in front of the school, according to Haerbig.

Teachers and students at Linton Springs can utilize the school's outdoor classroom and work on abating invasive plants and maintaining the school's vegetable garden, in addition to the work they can do with other gardens, she said.

Second-graders Kloe White and Jessica Naumann tackled the planting of the cosmos, but found it slightly difficult to dig into the soil because of the colder temperatures seen Sunday night and Monday morning.

They both agreed that planting is an important activity for Earth Day, and said it's important to keep the earth clean.

"We hope we get to plant a lot more stuff," Kloe said.

Letaw spoke about milkweed, the monarch butterfly's host plant, as second-graders examined milkweed blooming in one of the gardens. Three different types of milkweed have been planted in the beds - swamp, common and butterfly - and the school still needs to plant tropical milkweed, which has an anti-parasitic chemical, she said.

The school has teamed with different universities to monitor the larvae and eggs as well as look for parasites in the monarch research gardens, Letaw said. The teachers, volunteers and students will also be on monarch watch and will tag the butterflies.

Using empty water bottles, the students also made butterfly feeders Monday that they can take home and fill with sugar water.

Second-grader Savannah Peacock colored her entire feeder red in hopes of attracting more butterflies. Another second-grader, Morgan Ratchford, chose to use many different colors because butterflies like bright colors.


Morgan believes it's important to feed the butterflies and hopes the work they are doing will help them.

Many children don't know a lot about what's going on outside in nature, Letaw said. Outdoor activities help children become more knowledgeable about the environment and will be of assistance in high school, where students are expected to be environmentally literate, she said.

"The more they're outside, the more they're comfortable with it," she said.

Letaw has expanded the work completed by the school's Green Team so all children get to take part in a school-wide environmental education program. She's hoping to continue to engage teachers so they find out more ways going outside will fit into their curriculum.

"The goal really is to be able to incorporate the indoor [work] with the outdoors," she said.