Manteno resident receives Harmony Hero award for teaching ecology | Local News
MANTENO – Manteno resident Shannyn “Butterfly Lady” Dockery received a Harmony Hero Award for teaching students about the environment through a gardening and ecology program she helped start at Reavis Elementary School of Lansing, Illinois.
EarthKind, a pest control company specializing in products that repel but don’t harm pests, is giving recognition to a different kindergarten to grade 12 teacher each month for its 2021 Year of the Monarch campaign.
Dockery received the company’s first Harmony Hero Award for her work on an EARTH (Ecology, Awareness, Research, Technology and Horticulture) program at Reavis, where she teaches the first year.
To receive recognition, the teacher must show a commitment to eco-education initiatives in his curriculum, with an emphasis on children outside and connected to nature at a young age.
“During such a difficult time, Dockery’s efforts shed a bright light on young students, instilling in them a passion to protect and live in harmony with nature,” according to a press release from EarthKind.
Each winner receives free educational and promotional materials and enters a competition for the grand prize – an all-expense-paid trip to the habitat of the Kingdom of the Monarchs in the Central Highlands of Mexico to witness the migration of millions of monarch butterflies into March 2022.
Dockery, who grew up in Geneva and taught in Lansing for eight years, started the EARTH program together with three other teachers from his school.
The group started with the concept of a garden club to provide students with more hands-on learning activities, but quickly realized that they wanted him to be more involved.
They spent 90 hours of time on the plan before the program kicked off to determine how it could be sustained over the long term.
“We wanted to make sure it was something that could last for years, not just a season or two,” she said.
The team reached out to Master Gardeners, partnered with an extension of the University of Illinois, and saw the program grow from there. The EARTH program is now in its third year.
When students first step outside and learn about the real adult-sized gardening tools they’ll be using, it’s clear they “just want to get into the ground,” Dockery said.
Dockery, which has monarch-friendly milkweed plants growing in its own garden at home, incorporates lessons about endangered butterflies.
“We take a good week or two from our program and devote it to the butterfly population,” she says. “We see it all year round with the butterflies coming in and going out, and seeing their life cycles. In winter we talk about how they migrate to Mexico. It’s a big part of our program. “
She also discusses the importance of the milkweed plant, as it is the only plant that monarchs lay their eggs on and the only plant their caterpillars will eat, and explains the plant’s decline due to factors such as construction and subdivisions.
Dockery shares her passion for monarch butterflies with anyone who will listen to her, she said.
“If I can get a person to plant another milkweed plant, then it’s worth it,” Dockery said.
She takes particular pride in teaching students about gardening possibilities and options, as many children in Lansing live in apartments or townhouses without a garden.
“Every year we have kids who don’t know where the broccoli comes from or how the tomatoes grow,” she says. “We always make a point of growing eggplants because it’s something they usually haven’t seen or tried.”
At the end of the harvest, the students can taste the food from the garden. One student said he was inspired to become a chef, and Dockery made a commitment to eat wherever he ended up cooking in the future.
Dockery said if she wins the grand prize to see the butterfly migration in Mexico it would be an amazing opportunity to bring back videos to show her students. She often shows them videos of the butterflies that she raises and releases in her vegetable garden.
From the accounts and videos she has researched so far, it seems like a magical experience; witnesses can hear what sounds like the wind, but it’s actually millions of butterfly wings flapping.
“I’m really a nature lover who embraces trees, and when I can show them that and they’re excited about it too, that’s what it’s for,” Dockery said. “That’s why we became teachers. This is why we have built this program, to get them excited and for them to have this compassion for our land.