New Year’s Resolution: Let’s Be Part of the Solution

This past fall, over 4,100 students from 165 classrooms in grades kindergarten through high school were able to rear and tag monarch butterflies in August at the start of the school year.  Lynne Campbell, Extension Education Specialist with Iowa State University 4-H Youth Development, worked with Keith Bidne, Insect Rearing Specialist with the USDA Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit, to provide 30 monarch eggs per classroom for a total of 4,950 monarch eggs sent out to schools across Iowa — from Sioux City to Council Bluffs and Clayton Ridge to Central Lee and many schools across Iowa. The Monarch Eggs Project began in 2017 as an Iowa DNR REAP Conservation Education Program (CEP) grant (thank you!). 

To prepare for the project, AmeriCorps members and student workers assembled classroom supplies that were sent to teachers so students could work as scientists to rear monarch butterflies using the same USDA laboratory protocols designed to increase monarch butterfly survival rates by decreasing disease, especially OE. At the end of the month-long project, students tag the butterflies they reared and release them to join the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. One young scientist shared that she felt like she was an important scientist.

According to Campbell, engaging in K-12 youth outreach is important because we are building a culture of conservation starting with our youngest scientists. The  Monarch Eggs Project is timely because students explore the decline of the monarch population as an authentic issue happening with the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population and Iowa is part of the summer breeding ground.  The project also helps teachers meet life science standards such as lifecycles and earth science standards related to human impacts.  

Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium comprises members and partners from 50 organizations, including agricultural and conservation associations, agribusiness and utility companies, universities and state and federal agencies. The Iowa State University Monarch Research Group provides two important functions---research and outreach. The Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy was developed to help stakeholders learn what our state can do for monarch conservation efforts. The Strategy demonstrates that it will take an “all hands on deck” approach to increase pollinator habitat across Iowa. That action could include schools and students’ parents or grandparents planting habitat after youth share what they learned during the Monarch Eggs Project. The is foundation of the 4-H Youth Development is that youth can convince their family to take action. 

This collaboration is an example of living the Land Grant Mission by integrating research, teaching, and outreach. Together we can help increase the monarch population.  Perhaps our New Year’s Resolution should be: Let’s plant pollinator habitat. 


Lynne Campbell, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, 

Keith Bidne, USDA Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit,