While Eastern North Carolina was experiencing Hurricane Florence, one local FFA chapter received news that they had received a National FFA Living to Serve Grant worth $1,200. At a summer planning meeting, Woodington Middle School FFA advisor and officers decided they wanted to give back to their communities by creating or updating current butterfly gardens at all three of the elementary schools in Woodington’s attendance zone. They also determined that the park in Pink Hill should be included.
Students in all of Jessica Jones’ agriculture classes at Woodington Middle School were introduced to Monarch Butterflies. Students researched the Monarch Butterflies and then created presentations about the butterflies and their habitats. Madison Akers, an eighth grader, had a presentation that was then incorporated and used at the elementary schools to educate various groups of students. This experience gave us, as students, the opportunity to take initiative and inform others about Monarch Butterflies. As officers, we found it pleasing to see the younger students so interactive and interested with the topic. We then helped clean up the schools’ already overgrown gardens and arranged the pots and the benches.
Moss Hill Elementary already had a butterfly garden, but the FFA was able to add to the garden. Fifth graders were presented with a beautiful butterfly bench and were educated about the Monarch Butterflies by three Woodington FFA members.
Pink Hill Elementary already had a designated area for a butterfly garden as well, but it needed some tender loving care. FFA members pulled weeds and cleaned out the area while adding soil and a butterfly bench. Milkweed seeds were planted in cell packs and placed in Pink Hill’s greenhouse. The first graders at Pink Hill, under the direction of Mrs. Jennifer Grubbs, will be able to watch the seeds grow into plants and then transfer the plants into the garden area. They also were educated about the Monarchs by six WMS FFA members.
Southwood Elementary received a butterfly bench as well as planters for the seeds. The kindergarteners were taught about Monarchs by three WMS FFA members. They were also presented with seeds that were placed in their classrooms so that the students could watch the seeds grow into plants and then transfer them into the planters in the spring. All students in the grade levels mentioned at each school were also given two milkweed seeds to take home and start their own butterfly garden.
Pink Hill Park also received a butterfly bench and planters which were filled and sown with milkweed seeds. Before FFA members received the grant, two FFA officers went before the town hall meeting to present the idea and acquire permission for the project.
Jones said, “This taught my officers, who are awesome, that community service is so important. They were also able to gain experience with public speaking. My officer team and FFA members want to leave a positive mark in their communities. I am so proud of what they have already accomplished this year and what they continue to work on for the remaining part of the school year.”
The Monarch Butterfly population has decreased by 14.8 percent in the last year, which leaves an estimated 30,000 monarchs left. The deforestation in Mexico has greatly impacted the Monarch population along with the use of pesticides and lack of milkweed plants. With the help we have received, it has educated others, not only about the Monarch Butterfly in general, but also the ways we as a community can help. This will hopefully save these beautiful and graceful creatures from extinction.
Through this grant, we have helped to open many peoples eyes on the subject, making people in our community aware of how vulnerable the species is. Everyone can make a difference and everyone can take charge. Sydney Whichard stated, “As an officer, I am extremely grateful to have had this incredible opportunity and be able to spread the word.”