The monarch butterfly population is significantly declining in the United States. In an effort to help save the butterflies, students in Ms. Cheryl Gray Mitchell's AP Biology class are taking part in a new service-learning program.
"I was unaware of how threatened monarch butterflies' habitats are, and it was incredibly exciting to work toward improving their situation with students both in my class and in the other AP Bio sections," said Liz Palumbo '19.
"The students have worked on solutions that target the loss of biodiversity in the monarch butterfly and milkweed populations," explained Ms. Gray Mitchell. "We have partnered with the University of Kansas Monarch Watch program to raise caterpillars and tag the adult butterflies before releasing them for their annual migration to Mexico. The monarch population is in danger of extinction, declining about 80% in the last 15 years."
The outreach program partners AP courses with an international charity, we.org. Students are required to complete 20 hours of service in and outside of school. They also earn service recognition as part of their AP Score Report. Student volunteers include: Rachel Barber '19, Mary Cipperman '21, Olivia Cipperman '19, Jay Familetti '19, Erica Feehery '21, Morgan Gantt '19, Avani Narula '21, and Matt Repke '20.
"Working with the monarchs firsthand allowed me to gain a new found appreciation for the importance of milkweed plants and the application of biology in our everyday lives," shared Rachel Barber.
"It is really rewarding to help students better connect with the natural world outside of their classrooms and watch their curiosity ignite at simple things like raising butterflies and discovering the milkweed growing all over our beautiful campus," said Upper School science teacher Cheryl Gray Mitchell. "The loss is mainly due to the widespread planting of genetically modified crops, which are engineered for resistance to weed killers. Weed killers are now sprayed all over farms and roadsides to control weed growth and, unfortunately, milkweed is also killed by these chemicals."
Milkweed is the only thing that monarch caterpillars eat and without a food source, most caterpillars die. Severe weather from global climate change is also impacting monarchs at their winter hibernation site in Mexico.
"The project has encouraged me to be more conscious of the environment and has taught me how important it is to support the ecosystem," said Liz.
Students launched the project the first week of school and plan to finish up in the spring with the sale of milkweed seeds.