Saving butterflies

. April 26, 2013.

Environmental Science students at St. Francis de Sales will be putting their classroom lessons into practice this spring, building a large greenhouse on the school’s campus, and learning to grow the plants that provide habitats for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.
The butterfly, native to the Great Lakes area, was popular in the Oak Openings area, but vanished from that habitat in 1988, due to a change in the land and the encroachment of non-native species and woody plants. The insect was placed on the National Endangered Species List in 1992. At that time, staffers at the Toledo Zoo, including biologist Dr. Peter Tolson and Education Curator Mitch Magdich, participated in developing an Ohio Karner Blue Recovery Team to reintroduce the butterflies into Oak Openings Metropark in 2007. Metroparks workers used land management techniques to restore the habitat of the butterflies. Visitors to Oak Openings can now see the small butterflies living on the wild lupine plants.
Those staffers, and others at Toledo Botanical Garden, will offer assistance to the SFS students as they cultivate plants in the greenhouse thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Toledo Rotary Foundation. The project will be shared with Gesu School. The plants they grow will be given to TBG and The Toledo Zoo for replanting at various Karner Blue habitats.
Bringing the curriculum outdoors
St. Francis Environmental Science teacher, Kristi McKinley, explains that the plan is for the greenhouse project to increase the population of the butterfly species. She notes that, in addition to the greenhouse, her students will benefit from state-of-the-art sensors and equipment to maintain the perfect environment for growing the plants. Students will complete activities in workbooks connected to computers for gathering data, which can be used with SMART boards in the science classrooms.
Ms. McKinley has worked for nine years in the Education Department at various zoos, and is pleased that some of her former colleagues will be partnering with her students on this project. “The environment is everyone’s responsibility. I am excited that my students will get a chance to learn that first-hand with this project, and to contribute to making Toledo even more beautiful.”