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South School's Green Ambassadors Raise Awareness for Monarchs

By Melissa Manuel on 1. February 2024
Melissa Manuel

The Green Ambassadors are a group of elementary school students from South School in Hillsborough, California working together to make a difference for the beloved monarch butterfly. Led by their teachers, Erin Bautista and Sally James, the students embarked on a project last fall to study monarchs while taking action to prevent monarch decline. Their efforts to help the imperiled butterfly took place on three fronts: education, a milkweed plant sale, and fundraising for a non-profit. Xerces was so honored to be chosen as the beneficiary. 


Students on floor working on art with monarch pictures
Students from South School worked together to make something beautiful. (Photo: South School.) 


First, the students spearheaded the sale of 68 native milkweed plants to families looking to cultivate butterfly-friendly habitats in their yards. This approach not only raised funds, but also fostered a deeper connection to the cause, turning the campaign into a community-wide endeavor.


Milkweed plants are the main food for monarch caterpillars. (Photo: South School.) 


The students also incorporated creative projects to expand their campaign’s visibility. Inspired by the beauty of monarch butterflies, they poured their creativity into drawings and paintings of monarchs and milkweed to decorate the doors of the top fundraising classroom. Kindergarten students joined in by crafting monarch butterfly rings to wear for the cause. “Our entire staff is even dressing up as monarchs for Halloween! We are in a zone!” reported teacher Erin Bautista. Among the standout projects was the creation of 180 wooden monarch butterflies using the school’s laser printer. These symbolic butterflies transformed the school library into a captivating display, with the butterflies hanging as if overwintering from a decorative tree. 


Wooden butterflies hanging from a giant paper tree
Creativity from the Green Ambassadors transformed the school library into a captivating monarch display. (Photo: South School.)


Throughout the project, all grade levels were presented with many monarch-related lessons in the classroom. As part of their studies, the whole school read the book "Solimar The Sword of the Monarchs" by Pam Muñoz Ryan. 

What started as a modest plan to help monarchs blossomed into a heartwarming and impactful campaign, creating a ripple effect of positive actions for the students and their families. With all their enthusiasm for the cause, the students raised nearly $3,000 for Xerces. Many of the approximately 250 students’ families actively participated in the campaign, extending their support beyond financial contributions. 


A wall filled with monarch art and a promotion for the fundraiser at school
We're proud of the creative students and teachers at South School! (Photo: South School.) 


In a world often overshadowed by challenges, South School's support serves as a shining example of the positive change that can be achieved through taking collective action together with our communities. The students and families of South School have not only raised funds, they have become ambassadors for conservation, inspiring others to join the cause and collectively contribute to the well-being of our invaluable invertebrates and their habitats. 


Students with pipe cleaner monarch rings on hands
Pipe cleaner monarch rings will melt your heart. (Photo: South School.) 


If you feel inspired to take up the cause for invertebrates by hosting a fundraiser, we encourage you to check out Xerces’ peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Need ideas? Please reach out to us at [email protected] to discuss. 


Melissa joined Xerces in 2022 as the Donor Engagement Specialist, working with the Membership team. She is a "retired" young farmer with over a decade of expertise in urban farming, agroforestry, garden design and education. Before joining Xerces, she worked as a horticulturist at Leach Botanical Garden. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Portland State University and has worked with a number of environmental non-profit groups throughout her career.

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