Teacher Center

2011 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award

Ms. Theresa Farris
Service Valley Charter Academy, Oswego, Kansas

What do the words milkweed, waystation, conservation, migration and monarch have in common? Ask students who have passed through Theresa Farris' classroom in the last three years and they will say "butterflies." Luckily for her students, the monarch migration coincides with the beginning of the school year, allowing her students to witness the lifecycle of the monarch unfold before their eyes.

Noticing the excitement monarchs bring to her students, Theresa organized and built a class butterfly garden, which has grown each year from a few milkweed plants in a red Ryder wagon to a registered waystation in front of her school. This habitat provides students hands-on learning through:

  • Researching, planning, and implementing the creation of the registered waystation
  • Journaling reflections and observation
  • Witnessing the metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis
  • Interaction with butterflies in observation cages
  • Raising and feeding caterpillars and butterflies
  • Tagging butterflies for release
  • Participation in the "Monarchs in Space" program
  • Tracking monarch migration

The class sold plants they started in the school greenhouse in support of the "Bring Back the Monarchs" campaign through Kansas University, aimed to increase the development of additional monarch habitats to aid in monarch conservation.

The butterfly waystation is one of several locations that are used as part of the kindergarten agricultural curriculum during the year.

"I have been teaching for 18 years in a traditional classroom setting, helping my students master the skills necessary for a good foundation in the core subjects. I have been inspired by the use of agriculture to teach those same skills within a new medium and that fact has had a profound impact on all my students and myself."

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