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A Big Thank You!!

Christa McAuliffe Elementary School would like to thank our generous grantors and supporters for their wonderful contributions to our vision to teach ecological principles and science curriculum in our gardens. Our outdoor laboratory continues to flourish thanks to these supporters:
Lowe’s (Toolbox for Education)
Village Garden Club of La Jolla
Oceanside Chamber of Commerce (Partnerships in Education)
Mary Matava (El Corazon Composting Facility)
San Diego County Farm Bureau
Education PLUS! Fund at Coastal Community Foundation
San Diego Ag in the Classroom

Butterfly Garden

Would you like to see butterflies in your garden?  There are a few things you should know, and websites with information can be more than you really want to know.  Here are the essentials:

There are two kinds of plants that interest butterflies.

Nectar plants.....  where butterflies come to eat, and

Host plants... where the butterflies will lay their eggs. 

Butterflies are species specific, meaning that most species of butterfly can only lay their eggs on one plant.  So if you have host plants in your garden the butterflies will make special efforts to find you.  Of course that means you will have caterpillars eating the leaves, but we think that is the fun part!  These plants need direct sun.


Monarchs can only lay eggs on Milkweed.  The Monarch populations are so threatened that I strongly recommend that  you plant Milkweed!  It comes in different colors.

Gulf Fritillaries can only lay their eggs on Passion Vine ( the "3 fingered" leaf only)

Swallowtails will seek Sweet Fennel  and parsley.

Giant Swallowtails want Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) .

Sulphurs need Cassia or Senna

There are many more you can find online if you are interested.


Pretty and desirable nectar plants I recommend are:

#1  Star Clusters / Pentas ...Pentas comes in a lot of colors but the red attracts the most butterflies and hummingbirds! The red can get big but I cut it back to keep it at 4 feet.  The butterflies in my home and school gardens will fly right past the other plants to feed at the Red Pentas!  These flowering plants also come in white, different pinks, lavender, and a great violet color!  Pentas in these colors stay low... around 2 feet, and spread out to 3 feet wide, so you can buy them small and space them.


Here are some good nectar plants, but butterflies can really go to any nectar plant.


Common Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and Yellow Cosmos (Cosmos silphureus)

Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa spp.)

Asters, Chrysanthemums, and Marigolds.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.)These can get REALLY BIG! (15 feet!)  Feel free to cut them back.

Camara Lantana (Lantana camara) and Lilac Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)


Good luck!  Let me know if you have questions.

Ellen Bialik

2nd grade Teacher


Butterfly News

Where are the butterflies?

Butterflies are very temperature sensitive! When it gets cool, some will hibernate in trees, some will migrate to warmer climates, some do both. Our Monarch butterflies travel to Goleta near Santa Barbara to “overwinter”. There is a grove in a preserve where thousands of Monarchs from west of the Rockies come to cluster close together on Eucalyptus trees for warmth. (Monarchs East of the Rockies migrate to central Mexico.) I took my family to Goleta in January to see the marvel! Scientists come to count them and record the information to evaluate the effects of climate change and habitat destruction. This year the count was 27,000!! In the morning and evening the Monarchs snuggle close together and look just like leaves to those of us standing underneath. We got there on a warm day and marveled to watch the sun rise and warm the butterflies on the branches. First they fanned their wings showing flashes of orange. When they got warm enough, thousands took flight simultaneously as children and adults below “oohed” and “ahhhhed”! Then the air was filled with thousands of flying Monarchs! Everywhere we looked we delighted to watch the spectacle!

I hope you have a chance to take your family there next year. The Monarchs are there from November until February. Last year I took my family there near the end of February and the Monarchs were gone, migrating back to Canada, Baja, New Mexico, Arizona and other states west of the Rockies. That is why we planned the trip this year in January.

27,000 sounds like a lot of Monarchs! But it wasn’t that long ago that the counts were 150,000! Hosp Grove in Carlsbad (across from the Mall) used to be an overwintering site! The Monarchs stopped coming. That is why we have created a butterfly habitat garden at Christa McAuliffe. We are helping our planet by providing necessary pollinator habitat, while we educate our children about science as we emphasize the importance of learning how to care for the environment.

As our days get longer and warmer, we will see the Monarchs return to our garden! Come to help us prepare the habitat for their arrival! Your help is needed! As class size has increased, teachers have an overload of responsibilities! We need you! No experience is needed. Please contact Ellen Bialik:, or stop by room 16 before or after school.

If you would like to learn more about the overwintering site near Santa Barbara, check out this website:

Great News!

The Christa McAuliffe Butterfly Garden donated over 60 Monarch Caterpillars to the Monarch Program!  This local organization supports the education of environmental issues, and works on habitat reconstruction.  We at Christa McAuliffe are actively teaching our children about how to respect nature, while we provide interaction with this community organization that helps others to learn the science and beauty of our world.


Our Garden History


In 2005 Ms. Bialik, 2nd grade teacher,  received grants and organized volunteers to transform 3  existing raised garden beds from weed ridden to butterfly habitat. Planting host plants and nectar plants in the open, Ms. Bialik believed "If you build it they will come"! When butterflies and caterpillars filled the halls the following summer and fall, the school enthusiastically embraced butterfly mania. Under the direction of Ms. Bialik the school received certification as a Monarch Waystation from!   There are many exciting recent changes in our gardens! 
After a teacher workshop and student assembly by Master Gardener Jerry Louis, we now have 8 classrooms that are vermicomposting (with worms). We are learning about decomposition while we make natural organic fertilizer from food scraps.
Eagle Scout, Tim Glaszczak came to McAuliffe with helpers from his troop on a Saturday in March 2010 to build a greenhouse for the propagation of plants which will support the ongoing needs of Monarchs and other Butterflies in our Garden. Tim and his troop also added arbors over the walkways. 
Under the direction of Janet Germain (first grade teacher), Eagle Scout, Greg Wilson a former student at McAuliffe, built 6 redwood planters on the asphalt in front of first grade classrooms for an organic vegetable garden. 
 Under the direction of Ellen Bialik, second grade teacher, 50-60 parents, children and teachers came to school on Saturday, March 13, 2010 to weed and get the butterfly garden ready for planting. 
We always need more volunteers. No experience is necessary. If you would like to be a part of this exciting endeavor as a volunteer or by donating resources, please contact Ms. Bialik at the school:

$800 Garden Grant

school camera photos 046.jpgThank you to the Village Garden Club of La Jolla! The Butterfly Garden at McAuliffe has been selected to receive an $800 garden grant. The funds from this grant will support the upkeep and maintenance of our Butterfly Garden. Thank you to the parents and students that keep our garden looking great. If you are interested in working in and supporting our garden, please contact Ellen Bialik, McAuliffe Garden Coordinator.

Amazing Facts about Butterflies

Did you know that a butterfly caterpillar makes a chrysalis; a moth caterpillar makes a cocoon? When a caterpillar is ready to make a chrysalis it will travel away from the plants that are its food source and find a place to hang in a J shape. While the caterpillar is hanging it is metamorphosizing into the chrysalis. When it is ready, it will wiggle off its outer caterpillar skin and it drops to the ground, revealing the chrysalis. Butterflies are very temperature sensitive at all stages of the life cycle. We had a swallowtail chrysalis in our garden for 5 months before a beautiful butterfly came out. We thought it died, but it was hibernating! Butterflies can drink nectar from any flower, but caterpillars are fussy eaters! Each species of butterfly must lay its eggs on the specific plant that will nourish its caterpillars. These are called larval plants, or host plants. By planting a variety of host plants, we attract butterflies to lay their eggs in our garden! Monarchs must lay their eggs on Milkweed (Asclepias)! A beautiful Anise Swallowtail will come to lay eggs on anise or fennel. The sulphurs like the cassia. Fritillaries like the Passion Fruit vines. If you would like to attract more butterflies to your garden, check out this website and remember, NEVER use pesticides!!!: