Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
NEVADA FWO: Gardnerville Elementary School Schoolyard Habitat (CPwN)
California-Nevada Offices , August 29, 2014
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Student with Monarch Butterfly
Student with Monarch Butterfly - Photo Credit: Liz Biasotti

By Michelle Hunt

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and Gardnerville Elementary School have teamed up to develop a very successful schoolyard habitat project. This schoolyard habitat is quite unique as it has three habitat types all utilizing native plants: Great Basin, Sierra Nevada, and wetland.

In order to make the project relevant to students, each student adopts one plant and goes out into the habitat regularly to sketch and write notes about the plant.

One very important plant in the schoolyard habitat is showy milkweed. The showy milkweed is a critical host plant for monarch butterflies, and monarch butterfly populations have decreased dramatically in recent years. Since the habitat has been created, monarchs have found the milkweed plants and have begun laying eggs.

Students are now able to study the monarch butterfly life cycle which allows them to have a very hands-on experience with wildlife in their own schoolyard. The students and teachers can go out into the habitat and collect caterpillars hatched from eggs laid on the milkweed and then watch them pupate in the classroom. This monarch research culminates with the students tagging monarchs and releasing them; with the monarch butterfly's decline, this is a very relevant and important citizen science project.

Michelle Hunt is the schoolyard habitat coordinator at the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office in Reno, Nevada.

Contact Info: Michelle Hunt, (775) 861-6341, michelle_hunt@fws.gov
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