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Students in Northeast Arkansas promote butterfly habitats through creative project



Little Rock, Arkansas – Through a unique butterfly project, students at an elementary school in Northeast Arkansas are helping to create habitats for monarch butterflies.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reports that last year, T.G. Smith Elementary students participated in a grant funded by the Commission’s Wildlife Fine Money Grant Program to plant milkweed, the monarch butterfly’s host plant, on school property in an effort to encourage butterflies to pause and feed during their yearly migration.

According to AGFC, children are bringing some of the milkweed they grow at school home to plant in their flower beds and gardens, demonstrating how the project is really “spreading like a weed.”

According to the commission, all of the funding for this grant came from fines imposed on those found guilty of violating Washington County’s boating and wildlife laws.

Having taught painting at the school since 1986, Susan Jones is the one who filed for the grant and oversees the milkweed project.

“We grow the milkweed right here in the classroom,” Jones said. “We used grant money to buy hydroponics systems that the students can see and I work with them to plant seeds and transfer the plants once they’re ready. A lot of the students really enjoyed watching the plants grow from seed to plant.”

Upon visiting the school, it becomes evident that Jones and other educators are using wildlife fine money grants in a variety of creative ways to introduce their pupils to the outdoors, of which the butterfly project is just one. You’ll find an expansive outdoor classroom in the back of the school, complete with native plants and trees arranged along a walkway that would make many arboretums green with envy.

As per AGFC, Jones has been the recipient of numerous awards from 2007 to 2023, amounting to around $29,000, all of which were crucial in the establishment of the school’s outdoor classroom and habitat laboratory. Furthermore, numerous other public and private entities, such as the Arkansas Forestry Commission, Weyerhaeuser, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Ozark Society Foundation, Walmart, and Lowe’s, have contributed thousands of dollars.

“I’ve worked really hard to gather as many grants as we could and even got some funding through a Lowe’s grant to help with the outdoor classroom,” Jones said. “The students love the outdoor learning experience, and the latest project is just one more way we’re trying to keep nature on their minds.”

T.G. Smith’s metamorphosis, under Jones’ supervision and guidance, is a shining example of how educators may use funding from the AGFC and Arkansas Economic Development Commission to turn wildlife violations into good learning experiences for kids.

The point of contact for Project WILD (Wildlife In Learning Design) and the expanding Outdoor Adventures Program is Sheila Lovelady-Connerly, coordinator of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s School Connections Program. She provides curriculums for everything from a one-time lesson to a semester-long course on outdoor education.

“The grants can also be used for programs like Fishing in the Natural State (FINS), Archery in the Schools, and the Youth Shooting Sports Programs,” Connerly said. “All of our programs are a great way to enrich your student’s learning experience with lessons that speak to many students who may otherwise be difficult to engage. Nature has a way of helping many students come out of their shell.”



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