Junior Garden Club
The Junior Garden Club won the 2019 Garden Club of Georgia for Butterfly Conservation and the 2020 Suzanne Wheeler Bees, Birds and/or Butterfly Program Award from the Azalea District.
The Watkinsville Garden Club provides volunteers to help the Junior Garden Club at Rocky Branch Elementary School in Oconee County with their work. Shawna McGrath, one of the teachers at the school, started the garden club ten years ago.
The following is an account of the development of the Junior Garden Club from Shawna:
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We also built the chicken coop during this time as part of a project-based learning activity. In the fourth year, we built the greenhouse so we could continue to grow throughout the winters and start seedlings early for spring transplants.
In our vegetable gardens, we grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, herbs, peas, green beans, collards, turnips, kale, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spinach, and the fruits that I mentioned earlier. We donate all our produce to six families at our school. These families receive fresh meals throughout the school year and throughout the summer they receive a box of fresh produce each week.
In the fifth and sixth years, we built the pollinator garden and included the Monarch project. This garden has native plants for our area as well as raised beds for more vegetables to grow for food donations.
The Monarch project started through research on how our school could make a difference in our world. I wanted the students to see that they could make a difference to help save a dying population of Monarchs. We have raised Monarch caterpillars and released butterflies for the last two years.
We cleared the land into sections to make a trail throughout the field.
The students researched native nectar plants for each season. We researched milkweed and ways to grow milkweed. We transplanted perennial plants and got some milkweed seeds. We planted and grew milkweed in the North Oconee High School greenhouse.
We made butterfly houses and butterfly water dishes for the area. Each season we add more plants and milkweed to encourage spreading of the plants. Last year, we added some raised beds to feature certain native plants that the Monarchs like. This year we are including some milkweed raised beds.
The guiding principle of this work is: One child...One class...One school...Making a difference to change the world!
The Monarch Project: 2019
Activities of the Monarch Project this past year have included adding more milkweed and other plants that provide nectar for the fall migration of the butterflies, learning about the Monarch’s migration and their winter home in Mexico, and learning about the parasites that threaten the survival of the Monarch butterfly.
Members of the Junior Garden Club gathered the eggs of the Monarchs that were laid on the milkweed in the Monarch Way Station during the fall migration. From these eggs, they raised about 100 caterpillars. Once they emerged from their chrysalis stage, they had 82 Monarch butterflies. The children then became part of two other organizational efforts as they prepared to release their butterflies.
In conjunction with Journey North, they tagged the butterflies and registered them on the Journey North website with information about where they started their journey. Throughout the migration period, the students can follow where Monarchs are sighted and registered as they continue their journey to Mexico. The students also participated in Project Monarch Health at the UGA Odum School of Ecology. This project tracks the spread and impact of the OE pathogen, a parasite that impairs the ability to fly and reproduce. The students took measurements of each of the 82 butterflies (wing span and weight) and pressed a sticker to the abdomen, which picks up scales that will be examined under a microscope for the protozoan spores. In early December, the students should receive a report on the status of each of the butterflies.
Once their scientific research was done, the students released the 82 butterflies with the whole school attending.