Monarch caterpillars only eat one kind of plant–milkweed. As monarch butterfly populations are declining and more people are planting milkweed, what is important to understand about this food source? This workshop introduces participants to a distributed research project designed to help students understand evolution and ecology through inquiry about milkweed plants while simultaneously gathering data to answer important scientific questions, such as: “What should we do to slow the decline of the monarch butterfly populations?” and “Does the origin of milkweed seeds affect their growth?”
Participating institutions will plant milkweed seeds from local and non-local populations and gather data on milkweed growth annually in spring and fall to determine whether milkweed populations are locally adapted, meaning it would be beneficial to plant locally-sourced milkweed genotypes, or whether there are certain superior milkweed genotypes that perform better in all locations. Learning opportunities align well with Life Science Next Generation Science Standards at both middle and high school levels. The project requires a one-time collection of common milkweed seeds from a naturally occurring (not planted) local population, space and time to plant 20 or more milkweed plants, and a commitment to work with students annually to follow specific protocols for data collection in the spring and fall for multiple years. Optional extensions for data collection during the summer are in development.
Details: We welcome new and returning participants from across the native range of common milkweed. We especially encourage participants from New England and Midwest regions of the United States and educators who work with students under-represented in the sciences. We offer a $300 stipend for attendance and provide food during the meeting. Additional funds are available to support travel and lodging for teachers who live more than 50 miles from St. Olaf College and to support purchase of supplies necessary to implement the project at their schools. For interested parties who cannot travel, please apply to virtually participate in parts of the workshop. Certificates for CEUs will be available to those who participate in person or virtually. Groups of teachers from the same school or district are encouraged to apply.