The elimination of milkweed is not only harmful to our ecosystem, but it also damages the habitat of monarch butterflies, said Columbus Christian School teacher Kristin Tobiason.
Tobiason, who teaches fourth through sixth grade, taught her students this on Tuesday as part of Platte County Pheasants Forever's Milkweed in the Classroom program at the school, 3418 15th St. Group members provided Tobiason's classroom milkweed seeds and all the necessary material to grow the native plant: Soil, planting containers and a grow light.
This program also has online instruction on how to cultivate milkweed inside the classroom.
“Butterfly habitats are often destroyed because people think milkweed is a weed that doesn’t do anything good,” Tobiason said. “They (the students) are helping the butterflies in Nebraska. … They’re helping nature.”
Platte County Pheasants Forever members also spoke about conservation and how milkweed affects the ecosystem.
The project provides the chance to be outside and learn about wildlife and preservation. This objective has been a focus for Platte County Pheasants Forever, said chapter President Casey Schwarting.
“(We’re) teaching youth about the habitat in general and how important it is for wildlife in our area and how they can do something about it,” he said. “It can have an effect that lasts a long time.”
Tobiason said the plants will take about four to six weeks to grow. Once they sprout, she and the students will plant the milkweed at Columbus Christian in the hopes of bringing the butterflies to the school.
Platte County Pheasants Forever partnered with the Nebraska Environmental Trust, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Prairie Plains Institute to fund this classroom project.
This milkweed program is planned to be one of many events that the local chapter - which started in July 2020 - hopes to do for the youth.
Schwarting said he and his friend, AJ Palensky, started the Columbus chapter as a way to get kids back in the outdoors while learning about wildlife and hunting. He said as a father, he finds his children prefer playing video games rather than enjoy the fresh air outside.
“We want to teach people about habitat, starting with youth,” Schwarting said. “We want to get them outdoors and enjoy all the things that we enjoyed as youngsters.”
The Platte County Pheasants Forever's first event was a youth hunt last fall. Schwarting said the group hopes to hold a banquet in September to help raise funds for more programs and activities like Milkweed in the Classroom and the youth hunt.
He added this project at Columbus Christian School is a terrific step to educate local children.
“We want to encourage them to get outside and enjoy the outdoors,” Schwarting said.
Andrew Kiser is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.