Braden Gaab, a freshman at O’Fallon Township High School and an Eagle Scout, has left a lasting legacy at Amelia V. Carriel Junior High in an attempt to aid in the preservation and migration of Monarch butterflies. Gaab, under the supervision of his seventh grade science teacher, Mrs. Amanda Mellenthin, created a butterfly garden and certified Monarch Waystation.
O’Fallon Consolidated School District #90 shared the following on their Facebook page about the project, “Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to overwintering areas in Mexico and California where they wait out the winter until conditions favor a return flight in the spring. The monarch migration is truly one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss in North America – at the overwintering sites and throughout the spring and summer breeding range as well. Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.”
When asked where his inspiration came from, Gaab noted that Mellenthin expressed interest in butterfly waystations, but also said “I saw an article detailing the decline of the butterfly population and how serious it really was for the butterflies. I then visited the Butterfly House in St. Louis and that sealed the deal for me.”
Gaab took his ideas to Mellenthin, and the two made it a reality with help along the way. When asked about supplies, Gaab said “The majority of the supplies that I bought were from Lowe’s and Home Depot. However both stores were very generous in giving me discounts because I was doing an Eagle Scout Project. Some of the plants and seeds were donated by Monsanto and I worked with Sandy at Sandy’s Back Porch in Belleville on the selection of plants for the garden. Sandy also donated a large amount of plants and money to my project. The bench and four butterfly houses were all built by myself and fellow scouts from some designs I found online and slightly tweaked.” The butterfly houses are integral to the migration, and he noted “Monarchs and other butterflies will crawl in through the slots and hide from predators, bad weather, and even sleep! It mimics a tree because butterflies will crawl into hollowed out trees in nature.”
Mellenthin was enthusiastic about the Monarch Waystation and garden and being able to use it in her teaching, saying “I love it! The 7th grade curriculum focuses on life science, and the garden areas have been a great extension of the normal classroom experience. Carriel students have been able to observe and problem solve for real situations. They often get excited at the beginning of the school year because they get to do “real science” in a real habitat or test out their own ideas through experimentation. Not only has it lead to great and lasting experiences for students, but as teacher, it fun to watch students get excited about science! I loved working with Braden! He did such a great job of communicating his ideas and modifying them for our needs at Carriel. He was always so prepared and professional when I met with him to check on the projects status. He not only added new features to the space, but his volunteers help maintain some already existing areas of our garden. Since he was my student as a 7th grader, it was fun for me to see his ideas come together and be carried out with such success as an 8th grader. He showed great leadership throughout the whole project has continued to follow up on its progress. He is a remarkable young man!”
District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby also gave praise for Gaab and the project, saying “”We are proud of the work Braden Gaab put into the Monarch WayStation at Carriel. Braden researched and designed his project, presented it to the Board of Education and turned it into a reality with his hard work. His vision and dedication were impressive and the final result is an outstanding contribution to one of nature’s most beautiful species. Braden exemplifies what we hope to see in all of our students–a well-rounded learner of strong character who enjoys providing service to his community.”
Science is Gaab’s favorite subject at school, and looking towards the future, he says “I really want to go to the Air Force Academy to serve my country and to be a pilot. I believe the values and leadership skills Boy Scouts has taught me will help me achieve that future goal.” He also talked about being an Eagle Scout, and being a member of Boy Scout Troup 46, saying “The Troop and Boy Scouts in general have positively affected my life. Scouting has given me core values to live by, leadership opportunities and skills that I can use for the rest of my life. Even though I joined the troop just to have fun, I have gotten so much more out of it in three short years. Now that I’m an Eagle Scout and have four more years of eligibility before I age out at 18, I plan on using my leadership skills to teach younger scouts.”
Gaab continues to visit the garden and contribute to the upkeep, but the bulk of that will be done by Mellenthin’s Eco Team, which has been operating since 2009. Mellenthin explained “Eco team meets on most Wednesday’s during the school year to maintain all garden areas (planning, planting, weeding, mulching, trimming, and harvesting veggies and seed) and assists with the worm composting program. The whole operation at Carriel involves a lot of student participation and extra help from staff and community volunteers. Eco team does a huge job maintaining the area and making decisions about projects to tackle.”
There are two other certified waystations in O’Fallon. One is at the O’Fallon Community Garden, and one is at the private residence of an O’Fallon Garden Club Member.
Gaab asked to express gratitude, saying “I would love to give a huge thank you to everyone who helped me with my project, including my Eagle Scout Mentor, Scoutmaster, fellow scouts, my parents, Carriel school faculty, District 90 Supervisor and Board Members, donors and Ms. Kelly Hoffman who was my link to the scientists at Monsanto. I would especially like to thank Jay Syc who patiently and skillfully helped me all the way through the building and design of the woodworking component of my project.”