Elm Lawn Garden Certified as Monarch Waystation

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Michelle Phillips
The Elm Lawn garden after its transformation; The garden before it became a Monarch Waystation; A Monarch butterfly stop by the garden for some nectar.

MIDDLETON–The garden at Elm Lawn Elementary has been a collaboration between parents, students, staff and the Plant Dane Native Plant Program, and now the space has been certified a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.

Elm Lawn parent Nicole Westphal, and the PTO re-envisioned the space that first became a garden in the 1990s as a Girl Scout Gold Project. Over the years it was also a BSA Eagle Scout project and has fluctuated back and forth from being a vegetable garden to an ornamental garden, even sitting idle for a while. Now the space is home to vegetables, herbs and perennial, annual and native plants.

“We designed our 2020 garden to produce fall bounty, just in time for students to return (2020 had other plans!). We included climbing squash, gourds, and cucumbers, cherry and slicer tomatoes, a new asparagus patch, a sensory smorgasbord of perennial and annual herbs, towering sunflowers, beds of milkweed and native blooming flowers, and annual fall beauties like cosmos and zinnias. We included a little bit of everything in the small space, with an eye toward making it a beautiful, wonder-filled place to explore in early September,” Westphal explained of this year’s space.

Westphal said that 2020 has been an unusual year, but normally the garden has a weekly garden club that allows students to work at every aspect of the garden. She said that although the garden is a small part of the playground, it plays a big role in learning. 

“A garden like this is important for a school like Elm Lawn not only for the opportunities to learn biology from the life cycle of monarchs, or chemistry from amending the soil, but also for the sense of pride it instills in students as they watch their work grow to fruition, and for the sense of wonder it generates within the hearts of the young students who visit,” Westphal said. “There are spaces, like the Monarch habitat, to observe how plants and animals interact; spaces, like the bed brimming with tomatoes and basil, to taste summer; spaces, like the beds of towering flowers, to see a rainbow of natural beauty.”

The school also enrolled in the Plant Dane Native Plant program, which allowed them to donate 80 plants to the pollinator habitat. 

“These plants included a diverse array of milkweeds and nectar plants to support monarchs from May through October. We installed the new native plants in June, and after adding water sources for the monarchs in the form of ‘puddling stations’, we officially qualified to register our habitat as a Monarch Waystation,” Westphal stated.

In addition, parents have donated to help create native perennial flower bed, an asparagus patch, and an herb garden.

She said that the waystation certification means that the space will help future generations of Monarchs in their annual migration to Mexico. 

Westphal praised Elm Lawn Principal Bob Schell for supporting the project as well as Brian Goucher and the grounds team, who helped prepare the space. 

“Our Green Team redesigned the space with an eye toward long-term sustainability and habitat enrichment,” concluded Westphal.

For more information about the Monarch Watch Monarch Waystations, visit: https://monarchwatch.org/waystations/monarch_waystation_brochure.

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