Taking Your Students Outside

Now is the Time to Take Your Students Outside

As a former teacher, I know how busy this time of year is for you. Amidst all of the tests here in April, try to carve some time to take your students outside. You don’t need a big lesson planned. Just have them simply sit with their journal and observe.

By facilitating these opportunities, you instill the importance of truly observing their surroundings. You never know what you may see… as I took a short break from working on this blog to stare out my window, I saw a speck of orange flutter by my window. Was it a monarch? I quickly walked outside and into Monarch Waystation #1. Sure enough a female monarch was searching for milkweed on which to lay her eggs. I excitedly watched her search for a few minutes until she flew out of sight.

If I had not been taking a minute away from the computer screen simply stare into the outside world, I may have missed seeing the first monarch of the 2017 migration here at the Monarch Watch office. We all miss so much when we are plugged into technology, inside, too busy, multi-tasking, or simply not truly mindful of what our eyes may witness.

Taking your students outside to simply observe nature can truly bring about an awareness that a book, classroom activity, nor internet image can ever provide. It may take some guidance and practice, but providing your students with repeated opportunities to simply sit and observe nature, can truly open their eyes to a new way of seeing their world.

Late Winter/Early Spring Tasks for your School Pollinator Garden

Are you and your students anxious to turn out your classroom lights, shut the door and head outside to your garden?

Learn about a few key tasks before dashing outside, so that your excitement leads to positive-not detrimental- garden outcomes!

Depending on your location, you may or may not have begun working in your gardens yet. I have received lots of questions about the first garden tasks of the spring. Below is a general list of common tasks completed in late winter/early spring. Since the Monarch Waystation Network supports educators all over the country, the timing of the tasks varies depending on your location, and depending on the given year’s weather patterns. This list was compiled from numerous resources. If you have other tips or tasks that you feel should be added to this list, please email me. I would love to make this a more substantial list, with your input. One last note, is the tasks here are listed in no particular order.

  • Repair structures, such as raised beds, fences, paths, water sources, native bee houses, retaining walls, seating areas, trellises, etc.
  • Clear drainage ditches so spring rains have adequate runoff (consider planting a “rain garden” in the future…more details soon).
  • Sharpen and oil your garden tools.
  • If your soil is too wet or still frozen, wait until it dries out some before walking around on it. This will prevent the soil from becoming compact, which can result in poor drainage and aeration for the rest of season.
  • Have your soil’s ph level tested. Milkweeds and most native plants prefer soils as close to neutral as possible. Most local cooperative extension offices provide soil tests for free or a nominal fee.
  • Prune back dead stalks, stems, bushes, grasses, etc. to remove biomass and allow space for new growth.
  • Be easy with digging and scraping in the soil. Roots begin growing long before new shoots emerge, so you don’t want to damage the roots.
  • Once shoots emerge, add compost around the shoots.
  • If you choose to add fertilizer, now is the time. Most perennials only need to be fertilized in early spring, and no other time of the year. Choose an organic, slow-release fertilizer that is either balanced (10-10-10) or one with a higher Phosphorous level for root growth (5-10-5). If you can't find a good, organic fertilizer with a higher ratio of Phosphorous, you can add a little bone meal or rock phosphate.
  • If you want to divide plants before fertilizing, do so once shoots emerge, but are less than 4 inches high.

It’s official, the Monarch Waystation Network has been launched!

An Official Welcome to the Monarch Waystation Network

...And just in time for the Monarch Migration!

Hello! I hope each and every one of you have had a wonderful summer! As a former teacher, I completely understand the varied emotions you may be feeling here in mid-August, as a new school year is either underway or approaching:) And I also realize how incredibly busy you are!

I am writing to update you on the Monarch Waystation Network. After a fairly steep learning curve, I have gotten the website to the point I feel comfortable in launching it. Is it complete? No, but it was always intended to be an evolving process, a project that morphs as your needs dictate. To hopefully save you time in reading, I will list the main components of the website, along with any essential details or information.

Highlights and Essential Information:

  • The url is monarchwatch.org/waystationnetwork (please help spread the word!)
  • Main parts:
    • FORUM- A place to share ideas, lessons, questions and pictures. A place to connect with educators and students. A place for inspiration! For confidentiality purposes and to maintain focus, this is set up as a private forum. You must register first (I’m sorry, one more username and password to remember...but it’s for a really great causeJ), and then wait for me to approve the registration. This will hopefully prevent scammers and forum trolls. The forum is the real backbone of this entire Waystation Network project, and the future of this project depends on the level of engagement and activity!
    • CURRICULA- My job is not to design curricula, but to connect you to existing Monarch-related curricula. I have combed the internet and provided links to the “best” (I’m always open to suggestions). I am partnering with someone to align potential Waystation garden activities to the Next Generation Science Standards and to the Common Core Standards. This section of the website will certainly be evolving, and our hope is for lessons to be continually shared on the forum, and then I will transfer them to the website.
    • GARDENING- Tips, information and resources to support the maintenance of your Waystation gardens. This will be broken into parts, such as Milkweed, Common Waystation Plants, Garden Maintenance, etc.
    • INSECTS- A place to learn more about Monarchs and other insects visiting your Waystation gardens.
    • OUTREACH- An interactive map showing the general locations of all the certified Waystation gardens, a link to a great selection of free PDF downloads, and tips for involving colleagues, administrators and/or community members in our garden.
  • Short-term goal- Teachers, students and nonprofit professionals will register on the forum and generate discussions and connectivity, by posting pictures, asking questions, sharing lessons or merely stating what you are currently observing in your Waystation.
  • Long-term goal- To facilitate a unique, sustainable, interactive network for teachers, students and nonprofit professionals to help conserve the Monarchs and their migration by exposing youth to meaningful educational opportunities through self-instruction (i.e. we want to encourage your students to ask questions and seek the answers).

Our intent is not to provide all the answers, but to guide the learner in her/his self-directed educational adventures!

Please help this interactive project get off the ground by taking a minute to register on the forum and let everyone know what you are currently observing in your Waystation gardens!

***I am extremely excited to work with each of you and to support you and your students this year***