Excellence in ecology education wins Dockery Earthkind’s Harmony Hero Award
By Jim Masters
LANSING, Ill. (March 21, 2021) – Shannyn Dockery’s first-grade class at Reavis Elementary also know their teacher by another name: the “Monarch Lady.”
Yes, “Monarch” as in butterfly. And fittingly, Dockery’s affinity for this delicate, pollinating insect — and all things ecological and sustainable — has earned her EarthKind’s inaugural Harmony Hero Award.
“It’s very exciting and quite an honor,” she says. “This was really unexpected.”
An award for eco-education
EarthKind, a leading manufacturer of plant-based pest prevention products, has declared 2021 the “Year of the Monarch.” To bring focus to this endangered insect species (the Monarch population has declined 90% over the past 20 years), the company is honoring one K-12 teacher per month across the United States.
The award recognizes Dockery’s commitment to implementing eco-education initiatives in the school curriculum — while getting kids outdoors and connected to nature at a young age.
Dockery’s EARTH (Ecology, Awareness, Research, Technology and Horticulture) program at Reavis landed her EarthKind’s first national award in February. She’ll now be considered for EarthKind’s grand prize, which includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico in March 2022 to visit the “Kingdom of Monarchs” habitat to witness the amazing annual migration of millions of butterflies.
The “Monarch Lady”
Creating a Monarch butterfly habitat in her own backyard in Manteno, Illinois helped earn Dockery the “Monarch Lady” moniker among friends and students alike. She produced the habitat with a pair of fellow teachers two years ago by planting a milkweed garden.
Milkweed is a favorite food of Monarchs, which are easily recognizable by their black, orange and white wing patterns. It’s within the milkweed that Monarchs lay their eggs and produce their caterpillar offspring, leading to the metamorphosis of beautiful butterflies.
“I produced a video that got my students interested in Monarchs,” Dockery says. “I think it’s important to start teaching kids at a young age about ecological subjects. Ecology and sustainability are really a passion of mine.”
Bringing nature into the classroom
Her students’ interest piqued when they planted a pollinator garden on the Reavis grounds of various herbs, vegetables, and other common plants, including milkweed, to nurture a new butterfly habitat. In addition to teaching her students about how to create and care for a butterfly habitat, she says it shows them the basics of gardening and demonstrates the effects of pollutants on an ecosystem.
“My students really love the garden,” she says, noting their excitement when they discovered their first Monarch egg. “All they want to do is get their hands dirty and explore.”
However, hands-on activities have been limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, but her students have been able to do virtual observations of the garden while keeping up with their EARTH program curriculum.
As part of her Harmony Hero Award, Dockery will receive in-service training from an EarthKind entomologist. She can then deliver this eco knowledge to Reavis to help the entire school become a healthier and more ecologically sustainable place to learn and thrive.
A “Harmony Hero Conversations” video from EarthKind is below. Dockery is featured:
Offering congratulations to Dockery, EarthKind Founder and Chief Harmony Officer Kari Warberg Block says, “Our company purpose is to imagine a world in harmony with nature and one another in all the places we live, work, learn, and play. That’s why we’ve chosen to devote the entire year of 2021 to supporting eco-education initiatives in schools.
“Teachers across the country have been heroic champions for the long term social and cognitive benefits of eco-education. Day after day, they prove that getting kids into nature is the best thing we can do for them and for our own future. We view teachers very much like we view the monarch butterfly — our symbol for the campaign. And we plan to bring the amazing work they do alive throughout the year.”
Reavis Elementary School is located at 17121 Roy Street, Lansing, IL