The Boones Mill Elementary (BME) School holds a Junior Master Naturalist (JMN) Program during after school hours for fourth and fifth graders conducted by teachers Ms. Flora and Ms. Keenum. Meg and Rich Brager are advisors from the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists and assist with the program. This year the selected program concerns preservation of monarch butterflies. Monarch butterfly populations have recently dropped precipitously due in large part to loss of milkweed due to crop spraying. Monarchs rely solely on milkweed to propagate.
We began this project in order to do our small part to help this situation and more importantly to imbue knowledge and love of nature to our younger generation. Each meeting with the JMN’s teaches a different aspect of the monarch life cycle. This week we worked in the dirt to provide improved habitat for monarchs. In order to plant everything we wanted to we needed to add one additional raised bed garden in addition to the two existing raised beds at BME. This raised bed was financed by and built by the Skelton 4H Center supervised by Amber Wilson. Our thanks go out to them.
So what did we accomplish in our 1-3/4 hour allotted time slot? Well actually a great deal. We weeded the existing gardens, pruned existing plants and worked up the soil for easy planting. Then we made a grid with string on the new garden with each grid spot labeled in matrix fashion. In the new garden we planted both seeds and potted plants, one type in each grid spot and carefully recorded what was planted in each spot so the students can make periodic observations on how each plant is doing. In addition, more plants were planted in existing beds.
To say the least, the students were exited to work in the dirt wearing gardening gloves and using various garden implements. To date, our monarch butterfly project has been successful and rewarding. We will look forward to continue this project through the fall, winter and spring.
In addition to our thanks to the 4H Center, we also thank the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) for proving funding for this project. The SMLA realizes that nature education for our youth will provide our future leaders with the knowledge and foresight they need to protect the lake community well into the future.