The Stoddert Community Garden has been a valuable educational resource for the school and community since its creation in the spring of 2010. Students from all grades regularly tend the garden with the expert guidance of Kealy Rudersdorf, who leads the planting, weeding, watering efforts that sustain it.
Third and fifth-grade students also benefit from being able to use its milkweed for a classroom science project. Each year they raise Monarch Butterflies in the classroom, from the larvae to caterpillar to chrysalis stages and briefly beyond. Monarchs feed primarily on milkweed as caterpillars, and the garden provides ample amounts for the project (The last Monarch was just set free into the wild shortly after noon today, October 24).
This year an additional component was added to the program with the help of William Dent, an environmentalist active in projects throughout Latin America. Fifth-grade students in my class communicated via Skype with a primary school in Michoacan, Mexico on the Monarch migration, which begins in October and lasts for a month or so. Every year, millions of them arrive there for the warmer winters in the dry, mountainous region, though scientists are still unsure as to why. The Mexican students estimate the Monarchs will arrive in about a months time.
They also sang a couple of songs for the Stoddert kids, who loved the rhythm and tempo! Stoddert students gave brief reports about Washington, DC, the school, and their curriculum. A cultural exchange trip for a small group of Stoddert students to Mexico is in the planning stages for February 2013.