University of Minnesota

Education & Gardening

The Monarch Lab provides an abundance of educational tools, workshops, and expertise through a variety of different programs aiming to promote and facilitate inquiry-based education through original curricula and research opportunities.

We offer curriculum guides for incorporating inquiry into the classroom as well as engaging students in outdoor activities. Additionally, our staff members hold workshops for classroom teachers, informal educators, and citizen science volunteers to inform them of how to best utilize these curricula in their learning environments. Lastly, we support schoolyard gardens through our Schoolyard Garden Grant program and by providing resources for use in installing the gardens and utilizing them in outdoor education and inquiry. 


(Photo: Wendy Caldwell)

Sustainability means that we meet our needs without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. -- Definition from "It's All Connected" by Wheeler, Wheeler and Church

Students often do not understand their needs and how these needs affect their environment. A better understanding of our environment should begin with a familiar environment. For students, their schoolyard is a place where they spend a lot of time but don’t often investigate. Even the most meager schoolyards in the city have communities that can be studied. The soil, lawn, trees and shrubs as well as the many arthropods that call these environments home can be the subjects of student inquiry and a means to understand the ecology of their schoolyard. When students understand the schoolyard as an environment capable of supporting life, concrete connections to larger ecosystems that we depend upon, for example ecosystems that supply our fresh water and food, can be made. We have protocols on the study of pollinators. Students investigate the pollinators in their schoolyards by comparing the number of insect visitors to different types of flowers. Connections to the human food supply can be made by highlighting agricultures dependence upon pollinators for successful crops.

Through curriculum and teacher professional development we create links between the schoolyard and the importance of the organisms living there. The lessons are designed to lead the student into conducting investigations of their own or to directly highlight a principle of sustainability. Each lesson contains information and examples that create frameworks which connect the human welfare and the environment as dependent upon one another.

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