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The Monarch Sister Schools Program was created by the educational nonprofit Natural Partners to involve students in a real environmental problem: namely, the ongoing destruction of Monarch butterflies’ habitat in the U.S. and Canada (driven by herbicide use on farms) and of over-wintering habitat in Mexico (due to illegal logging), resulting in a precipitous decline in the Monarchs population. Through hands-on projects, students learn about the habitat, life cycle and amazing migration of the Monarchs, while collaborating across borders on projects to restore habitat for future Monarch generations.
The Monarch Sister Schools Program (MSSP) engages students in 3 core 'action areas’:
1) Habitat Restoration. The Program empowers young people to make a difference through hands-on projects at schools to help restore habitat areas of the Monarch butterfly. In the U.S. the 'vehicle’ of habitat restoration is the planting and maintenance of a Butterfly Habitat Garden by students. At schools in Mexico, the 'vehicle’ is the creation of a schoolyard Tree Nursery to produce the native tree saplings needed for students and their parents to reforest logged areas of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve where Monarch butterflies overwinter.
2) Hands-on Learning.The Butterfly Habitat Gardens at U.S. schools and Tree Nurseries at Mexican schools serve as outdoor classrooms where children can be in touch with nature and learn in a participatory way about the natural world and, specifically, the Monarch’s habitat, life cycle and migration using high-quality lesson plans. This is important in an era where children increasingly have been confined to the indoors and "taught to the test" at schools.
3) Cultural Exchange. U.S. schools can partner with a 'sister school’ located inside of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and, in the process, engage in a vibrant cultural exchange, enhanced by the use of class-to-class Skype sessions and support a joint reforestation project with Mexican students to restore deforested areas of the Reserve. This exchange and joint reforestation project can inspire interest in the other’s history, geography, and language.