CYPRESS TEXAS — Thornton Middle School celebrated a partnership between its “Butterfly Defenders Club” and the North Harris County Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) with an inaugural Garden Party at the campus on April 27.

The AAUW supported Thornton’s “citizen scientists” with a grant worth $3,800 for the design, construction and maintenance of a monarch butterfly garden on campus.

“Many of our students believe that ‘real’ science only takes place in a sterile lab with white-coated scientists,” said Beth Muyskens, Thornton science campus content instructional specialist. “We are striving to change our students’ points of view by providing opportunities for students to ‘do’ real science.”

Members of the North Harris County Branch of the AAUW, from left, Karen Stahl, Mary Smith, Syliva DeHek, Jim Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson, observe the various plants in Thornton Middle School’s monarch butterfly garden during the inaugural Garden Party at the school on April 27.
Members of the North Harris County Branch of the AAUW, from left, Karen Stahl, Mary Smith, Syliva DeHek, Jim Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson, observe the various plants in Thornton Middle School’s monarch butterfly garden during the inaugural Garden Party at the school on April 27. 

As “citizen scientists,” the student volunteers will collect data for research and practice conservation by teaching their peers and improving and creating habitats for monarch butterflies. The Butterfly Defenders are joining forces with the citizen science program Journey North by reporting butterfly sightings during the spring and fall migrations, allowing for data aggregation that will develop real-time maps of migration fronts.

The in-progress garden is expected to be completed in time for the fall migration. It currently includes a rock garden where students can add painted rocks and a “Little Free Library” designed and built by industrial technology teachers D’Andre Harbin and Tim Jahn and their student, Justy Reyes. The grant money allowed the school to purchase pavers, soil, gardening supplies, plants, butterfly tags, handheld microscopes, signs and registration to be an official Monarch Butterfly Waystation. The club plans to add benches once the school’s renovation project is completed.

Current and former members of Thornton’s Butterfly Defenders Club join members of the North Harris County Branch of the AAUW at Thornton’s inaugural Garden Party on April 27.
Current and former members of Thornton’s Butterfly Defenders Club join members of the North Harris County Branch of the AAUW at Thornton’s inaugural Garden Party on April 27. 

The Butterfly Defenders launched in February 2018 with nine Thornton female students. Four of the original members have since advanced to high school, and the club has grown to 15 in 2018-2019.

“The exciting news is that some of our high school girls want to attend our meetings and events this year,” Muyskens said. “Our butterfly garden will truly be part of our community.”

Joined by her grandmother, Renae Howard, Thornton sixth-grade student Karmen Brown visits with (from left) AAUW North Harris County Branch President Mary Smith; Thornton Principal Reginal Mitchell; and Thornton Behavior Specialist Gloria Anderson at the school’s Garden Party on April 27.
Joined by her grandmother, Renae Howard, Thornton sixth-grade student Karmen Brown visits with (from left) AAUW North Harris County Branch President Mary Smith; Thornton Principal Reginal Mitchell; and Thornton Behavior Specialist Gloria Anderson at the school’s Garden Party on April 27. 

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