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home : education : schools May 26, 2018

4/24/2018 6:36:00 PM
Sisters to celebrate pollinators

Thanks to the efforts of educators, kids and members of the local community, Sisters has become an important hub in the migration of pollinators.

On Saturday, May 5, noon to 3 p.m., the public is invited to Sisters Middle School for the Journey North Western Monarch and Pollinator Spring Migration Celebration. Keynote speaker for the event is Dr. David James of Washington State University, founder of the western monarch tagging and tracking program.

Featured speaker, Robert Coffan, of the Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, is part of a team that is currently performing the largest single monarch habitat restoration project in the western United States. As SOMA co-founder, Coffan will explain how to restore monarch habitat locally.

Susie Werts, Sisters Middle School special-education teacher, has used the study of monarch butterflies to enhance student reading and writing skills and will demonstrate how to bring the innovative monarch instruction into the classroom regardless of the subject being taught.

Werts and her students began the Sisters Community Monarch Conservation Project in 2016 by studying about monarchs and then rearing monarch caterpillars and releasing the resultant butterflies after tagging them.

The decline of the monarch butterfly is an indicator of the peril facing all pollinators. Twenty years ago, there were an estimated one billion North American monarch butterflies. Today there are about 33 million of the orange and black beauties.

The western monarch, the one we see here in Sisters, has experienced a much greater population decline; yet dedicated study of their decreasing numbers has only been going on since 2012. Werts' students have been trying to do something to help improve that statistic. They have created monarch waystations, first with six boxes, then 12, and are now on their way to 30.

One of their tagged butterflies was discovered in Southern California, having traveled over 800 miles from Sisters. The story of this well-traveled butterfly, has been recorded on blogs all over the world. Local author Jean Nave helped the students create a book about the travels of their butterfly, who they named Journey.

The City Parks Advisory Board is contributing to the welfare of local pollinators by creating a new native plant-restoration garden, which will contain native nectar-producing pants like milkweed to help revive the local monarch population.

Nave, Werts, and local naturalist Jim Anderson have appealed to the City to moderate some of their maintenance practices to support integrated pest management with reduced use of pesticides and insecticides harmful to pollinators.

Homeowners in Sisters can do their part to help the pollinators, and especially the monarchs, by planting native milkweed and nectar plants, as well as allowing dandelions and clover, some of the first food sources for pollinators in the spring, to grow in lawns. Eliminating the use of insecticides and pesticides that are lethal to pollinators is an important step.

Everyone who attends the May 5 migration celebration will go home with a packet of local milkweed seeds to plant in their yards. Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed, which is also a food source.

On Saturday, April 28, Paulina Springs Books will be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day by featuring the middle school students' book, "Journey's Flight," as the focus for the day's activities. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. some of the students will be available to talk about researching and writing the book.

Both events are free to the public, and no registration is necessary.

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