San Juan School students pose with the lumber. Photo by Jayne Ferreira.
San Juan School students pose with the lumber. Photo by Jayne Ferreira.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna


The distinct yet familiar colors of orange, black and white make a certain butterfly recognizable to the public eye. From early November till the end of March, the monarch butterfly species migrates from Canada to the Central Coast. The winter season causes the monarchs to wait out freezing temperatures in a safe location.

One hour away from Hollister, a large wave of butterflies visits Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove each year. According to the sanctuary’s website, this migration is unlike others because the first migrating monarchs never reach their final destination; the migration takes place over generations of butterflies.

In 2021, San Juan School instructors Teri Marshall and Jayne Ferreira visited the butterfly sanctuary with their families. Expecting to see large numbers of bright monarchs resting in the trees, they instead returned home having seen zero monarchs.

“We should have seen them and there was nothing,” Marshall said. 

Monarchs at the Natural Bridges State Beach on Dec. 17, 2021. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Monarchs at the Natural Bridges State Beach on Dec. 17, 2021. Photo by Noe Magaña.

In 2022, Marshall traveled to Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz and to her delight, the monarchs had returned.

Inspired by her visit there, Marshall decided to contribute to the monarch’s migration by creating a monarch garden to serve as a butterfly rest and feeding area at the school. Marshall learned of Big Creek Lumber’s grant program, which provides schools with lumber for projects, to get supplies to build garden beds.

“We were asking because we like to have a pollinator [garden] on school grounds,” said Marshall.

The monarch butterflies are beautiful creatures which have an essential role in the environment. According to the Nature Conservancy, as monarch butterflies migrate, they fly and consume nectar and spread pollen during their journey, making them primary pollinators in the food chain. 

On April 28 Big Creek Lumber visited the classroom and gave 10 garden beds to the class.

Big Creek Lumber delivers garden beds. Photo by Jayne Ferreira.
Big Creek Lumber delivers garden beds. Photo by Jayne Ferreira.

Her students “were really excited!” said Marshall, as they received the donated lumber. Each of her 17 fourth graders were smiling and ready to begin construction.

“Right now the monarch garden is our main focus,” said Marshall. “They’re on the verge of being an extinct species, and this is something we can help with and teach children to care about.”

Outside her class, a pathway leads to the school’s lunch tables and dry, uneven dirt patches. “This area here, there’s nothing special about it. The garden beds will be something kids can have pride in,” said Marshall. She envisions constructing two gardens in front of her classroom and near the lunch area.

Part of the plan to attract butterflies is to plant milkweed as well as native plants. Marshall expects the garden to host mainly monarchs, but she hopes it will also attract hummingbirds. One of Marshall’s concerns is dealing with bees, as some students might be allergic to them.

Photo by Jayne Ferreira.
Photo by Jayne Ferreira.

Construction is expected to start once students are done with state-required testing. Students will kick off studying on a butterfly unit as they work on the garden.

“We can watch a butterfly’s life cycle now and for future years, to see them at their caterpillar, chrysalis and mature to an adult butterfly,” said Marshall.

If things go according to plan, Marshall’s next project is to renovate outdated garden beds on school grounds.

Patti Gutierrez’s fourth and fifth grade classroom will also participate in the project. “Once we get the plants, they will have to care for the environment. They will start weeding and make sure their area is nice and clean,” said Gutierrez. “Students will learn to care.”

Marshall said they still need supplies such as soil and plant donations to finalize their garden. 

To make a donation, contact her at (831) 623-4538 #214, or


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