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Tiny Green Thumbs at Bed-Stuy School Create Habitat for Monarch Butterflies

By Noah Hurowitz | October 6, 2017 10:25am
 BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — If you plant it, they will come. 

 The P.S. 54 Samuel C. Barnes School, a Bed-Stuy pre-K-through-fifth grade magnet school specializing in environmental science,has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified monarch butterfly habitat, according to the conservation group.
P.S. 54 Monarch Habitat
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Call it the butterfly effect.

The P.S. 54 Samuel C. Barnes School, a Bed-Stuy pre-K-through-fifth grade magnet school specializing in environmental science, has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified monarch butterfly habitat, according to the conservation group.

The school’s little green-thumbs, dubbed “Green Guerillas,” are joining thousands of other gardeners across the country in growing gardens designed to attract and support the colorful critters as they face an increased danger of extinction due to habitat loss.

The garden, a colorful hodgepodge of milkweed, lemongrass, basil, sunflowers and more, provides a lush exterior to the entrance of the school at 195 Sanford St.

The garden is about six years old, but it wasn’t until last year that the butterflies started appearing, according to Guy Garrison, a physical-education teacher who doubles as the schools community wellness coordinator in charge of overseeing the garden.

This summer, however, they’ve been flocking to the garden like crazy, he said.

“We didn’t start seeing them until last year, but when we spotted that first monarch, we was cheering, the kids were so amped up,” he said.

The habitat, which is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an ecosystem that can provide not only sustenance to butterflies passing during migration but also as a more permanent home for the monarchs to lay eggs and hatch, is part of a patchwork of habitats throughout the butterfly’s migratory route aimed at building an infrastructure to keep population levels up, Garrison said.

Like the much publicized die-off and disappearance of bees, monarch butterfly populations are being threatened due to a combination of loss of habitat, human activity and climate change, according to recent studies.

The colorful creatures migrate in generational journeys, with the first generation typically born between March and April in the mountains of northern Mexico or warmer areas of the southern United States, according to MonarchLab.org, a website affiliated with the University of Minnesota.

The second generation of butterflies hatch from eggs laid in North America between April and June, head north, and lay the eggs that become third and fourth-generation monarchs, which typically then head back south to Mexico to start the cycle anew.

Because of the loss of habitat across the span of this massive migratory route, monarchs need all the safe havens they can get, making butterfly gardens like the one outside P.S. 54 a crucial piece in the infrastructure that supports the critters, Garrison said.

It’s also a neat way for children to get a glimpse of the circle of life.

“It helps their understanding of science, because when you start talking about photosynthesis and plant biology, and flowers, and pistols, they can cut apart a flower and see,” he said.