CONSERVATION COLLABORATIONS: LIVING CLASSROOMS

The Oklahoma City Zoo has partnered with the National Wildlife Federation and Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative for many years to increase habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. Oklahoma provides vital resources for native pollinators and is a central flyway for the spring and fall monarch migration. As the population of monarchs has declined significantly, the OKC Zoo has found a way to get Oklahoma’s youngest residents involved in reinvigorating the pollinator population.

The Living Classrooms Grant program provides students across Oklahoma City metro area the opportunity to become involved in their community and learn about conservation and saving animals for future generations. To receive this grant, schools must maintain and commit resources to their garden for at least three years, dedicate a minimum of 100 square feet of planted space on school grounds that must include native milkweed and nectar plants to attract monarchs to the garden, develop educational projects involving the garden and complete student and teacher evaluations. Schools selected for the program receive opportunities for professional development for teachers, National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Mission Curriculum and up to $1500 to purchase garden supplies. Most recently one high school and one elementary school teamed up to help monarchs that resulted in a very special moment for teachers and students alike.

Putnam City North (PCN) High School has tended to their monarch garden, partially funded with OKC Zoo’s Living Classrooms Grant, for many years while the students at James L. Dennis Elementary hatched monarch butterflies as part of a living classroom of their own kind. The schools thought what better way to collaborate than having the elementary school students release their butterflies into the wildflowers of the high school’s Outdoor Classroom.  The excitement and positivity were tangible when a few reluctant butterflies clinging to their familiar indoor habitat were coaxed out into the flowers as children chanted, “You can do it!”

A high school student, Maddie, said “It was nice to see the elementary students enjoying their butterflies and the flowers we planted.”  Classmate, Senon, mentioned that it was a win for both the butterflies and the flowers in the gardens.

PCN Principal, Carole Buhr said, “We love the cross-collaboration between schools and look forward to more opportunities to cross-collaborate.” Hosting the event were PCN Environmental Science classes and also members of the PCN Earth Conservation Organization (“ECO” club).  The school reported that photojournalism students documented the occasion as part of an internal collaboration. “Working with others has been a great way to build appreciation for various teams in our school, roles in society, and also to celebrate our Environmental Science students’ hard work of actually creating and planting the garden areas for pollinators.” according to Environmental Science teacher, Kenda Kirby.

Four more OKC metro schools have been awarded the Living Classrooms Grants this year, bringing the total number of school pollinator gardens funded by OKC Zoo to 22.

Photos courtesy of Kenda Kirby and Taylor Snyder

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