Bella Fishman is building butterfly habitats which are resting places on their cross country journey.
"I just think they are really beautiful and majestic creatures that we need to help conserve," she said.
She has always appreciated butterflies.
"When I was in second grade I began raising butterflies in my house. And that really made me interested in how the butterflies kind of grew and migrated and that made me want to do something to help Monarch butterflies," she said.
Now Bella is in eighth grade and she has a passion for their plight.
"When they make their journey from Canada to Mexico, the Monarch butterflies don't have enough milkweed to eat on the way," she explained.
She is making their journey a little easier. Monarchs are the focus of her year-long portfolio project at the Episcopal School of Knoxville. She interviewed Monarch migration experts and took photographs to show off the beauty of butterflies. Next, she will start building Monarch Waystations filled with milkweed at two locations in Knoxville.
There's already a Monarch Waystation at ESK. It is part of a program for first grade students. They raise caterpillars, watch them become butterflies, tag them and release them.
ESK teacher Chris Bishop teaches those first graders.
"This is a place where Monarchs migrate north in the spring probably in about a month-and-a-half and a place where Monarchs will migrate back down on the way to Mexico. We see some come through usually in October some time," he said.
He is also Bella's advisor for her portfolio project.
"She took the ball and ran with it. She was amazing. What she accomplished was amazing," he said.
When the weather warms up, Bella will make milkweed gardens at the Knoxville Zoo and the Muse. She will also handle the registration with Monarch Watch to make those habitats official Monarch Waystations.
"I am planting the milkweed at my house. And I am going to plant it at the Knoxville Zoo and the Muse in April," she said.
Bella has blossomed into a butterfly advocate.
"Particularly with what she has done in the community with the Muse and the Zoo and helping them establish their own Waystations and getting them excited about being part of the Monarch program. My thought was I should have done that years ago and she did it in the course of about three months. Very impressive," Bishop said.
Bella has a bigger goal beyond the Monarch Waystations she is establishing.
"I hope that other people will be inspired to plant gardens at their own homes," she said.
We are featuring students making a difference here in East Tennessee in our new series called 10 Rising Hearts. These are students who reach beyond their schools and families to help make our community better. To nominate a student, please send an email describing them and their community service to 10Hearts@wbir.com.