Students in Kim Savino's classroom at Michael Collins Elementary School in Schaumburg are on a mission. Simply put, they want local residents to "start seeing monarchs."
"The thought of monarchs becoming extinct and not seeing them any more makes me sad," said fifth-grader Logan Rago. "That's why I want to do anything I can do to help save them."
Helping the causeWhat: "Start Seeing Monarchs," a 50-page book created by Michael Collins Elementary School students in Schaumburg
Information: www.startseeingmonarchs.org to buy books and learn more; site still under construction
Where to contribute: http://www.gofundme.com/dashboard-gb4160
Last month, students made a presentation at their school about their plans to help save monarch butterflies. More than 200 people attended and 52 families signed up to establish way stations -- gardens containing milkweed plants and other nectar flowers -- to sustain monarchs during their annual migration to Mexico.
Their movement is growing, but the students hope to draw even more residents into the project.
"Milkweed plants are getting pretty sparse," says sixth-grader Anjali Patel of Schaumburg. "We want to inspire people to help us save monarchs. If we can inspire them to save this species, maybe we'll be able to save others."
One way they hope to inspire others is by selling a book that the students combined to produce. The 50-page book features different drawings of monarchs and quotes from students who drew them.
"That's been my favorite part," says sixth-grader Nick Guemvaoui of Schaumburg. "Creating the book and being able to show what we've been doing to the public."
Proceeds from the sale of the book, as well as from framed prints of their drawings and sales of assorted candy and even customized monarch-wear, will help them raise awareness, they say. Funds also will provide seed money to purchase milkweed plants that they will grow in their classroom until planting day in May.
Students in two multi-age classrooms have worked on the project, including those in Savino's class and in Brittany Abruzzo's class, though Savino is the driving force.
She has loved monarchs since she was a child, and now is writing a thesis on the species as part of her graduate work through Miami University and an affiliation with the Brookfield Zoological Society and Project Dragonfly.
Savino points to global warming and the increased use of herbicides and pesticides on crops in the Corn Belt as major factors that have led to a decline in the monarchs' migration pattern and habitats.
"Today, the milkweed is 10 percent of what it used to be," Savino says. "We are at great risk of losing their migration."
Students discuss their passion for saving monarchs in their double classroom, which was converted into a zoo environment more than a dozen years ago with help from a national grant.
Students have zoo responsibility every day and care for a menagerie that includes two dogs, snakes, birds, a tarantula, chinchilla, bunnies, rats and conjoined turtles.
Care includes everything from washing and cleaning their cages, to measuring, weighing and researching their particular species. Saving monarch butterflies, they say, is an extension of their zoo responsibilities.
Savino's zoo classroom was dedicated in 2003 as part of a problem-based learning project that her former students participated in and, ultimately, convinced the superintendent to support.
That same enthusiasm drives this year's monarch butterfly project, though with an even greater impact at stake.