LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska 4-H is using monarch butterflies to demonstrate to youth how agriculture can be fun while also having a real-world impact.
The “Monarchs on the Move Challenge” was part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, which is an annual interactive event featuring a new agricultural topic each year. The activity is designed to challenge youth to apply critical thinking and science, technology, engineering and mathematical skills to a real-world agriculture challenge. The program reaches 5,000 youth in five states, including Nebraska where 1,800 youth have participated. Nebraska 4-H is a long-standing recipient of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience grant, which supports the delivery of the program.
This year’s challenge focused on the challenges affecting the monarch butterfly’s survival rates. The monarch butterfly is a flagship species representing many pollinators that contribute to our food supply and the health of our planet.
Over 30 teens lead activities in 27 Nebraska counties learned how everyone can contribute to increasing the monarch habitat to support sustainable monarch populations. In addition, several Rwandan students attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln also participated in the challenge. The students are a part of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholarship Program.
During the activity, participants built models and reviewed habitats in order to understand the collaborative efforts involved in increasing the monarch’s habitat. According to the participants, the challenge made them more aware of their surroundings and helped them foster an appreciation for the monarch life cycle.
“Now, I’m looking for other ways I can make a difference for the monarch butterfly; if we all do our part, everyone can benefit and help our planet become more resourceful,” said Lauren Zack, who led the Monarchs on the Move program in Wilber. “I am thankful that 4-H is preparing me to be a confident, resourceful leader, so that both now and in the future, I can make a difference.”
For Galayna Erickson of Culbertson, Monarchs on the Move helped her understand the relationship between the agricultural landscape and biodiversity.
“So much of the land we have could be turned into crops or plots for pollinators that would be so helpful to the world around us. I hope that the children I worked with as a teen leader walked away from the program understanding how important agriculture is to our everyday lives,” said Erickson.