Early in April, Nantucket Lighthouse School received a Certificate of Appreciation from Monarch Watch, a non-profit education, conservation and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration. The award grants Nantucket Lighthouse School’s Pollinator Garden national recognition as a certified Monarch Waystation.
Without access to milkweed throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarch butterflies would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers, these fall migratory monarchs would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world. Monarch Waystations are habitats that provide the necessary resources for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
Nantucket Lighthouse School’s Pollinator Garden, funded by the Nantucket Garden Club and designed by Julie Wood of Hither Creek Gardener, is a protected sanctuary for birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. In the garden, native species such as Orange Milkweed, Joe-Pye Weed, and New England Aster are cultivated among other pollinators like Butterfly Bush, Coneflowers, Angelica, and Lavender. The Garden is studied and maintained by Nantucket Lighthouse School students and enjoyed by the community, through events like the Nantucket Lighthouse School’s Nantucket Garden Festival, held annually in mid-July.
Connecting children with the natural world and allowing them to explore the outdoors, including the garden, is an integral part of the Nantucket Lighthouse School’s integrated curriculum. Students work in the garden, weeding, watering, and tending to the beds. Classes utilize the space for lessons in science, social studies, math, reading, writing, and painting. A living laboratory, children are growing, experimenting, observing, measuring, comparing, and learning to care for something that is important to the Nantucket Lighthouse School community and to sustainability efforts around the world. The school’s Educational Garden is comprised of 12 raised cedar beds for growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers, generously funded by the Nantucket Land Council; a 17′ x 28′ hoop house, funded by 2014 Nantucket Garden Festival Soirée guests; and the Pollinator Garden.
While horticulture studies have been integrated into the school’s curriculum since its founding, this past summer Nantucket Lighthouse School formally established the Russell Morash Chair of Childhood Horticulture, honoring long-time friend, supporter and gardener, Russ Morash, and hired its first Director of Horticulture, Rain Harbison, who leads weekly botany classes for Lighthouse students in preschool through eighth grade.
Monarch Watch strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. They engage in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration. They also promote protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.