Summer may be a time for some students to slow down and take a break, but rising senior Sophie Kapica isn't one of them.
"This summer I just wanted to do something else," Kapica said, "and I'm really interested in the environment."
Kapica, the president of 's Environmental Club, worked with the Chatham Township Environmental Commission and other club members to help care for a native monarch butterfly wildlife habitat near the parking lot.
Kapica and others recently spent an afternoon weeding the habitat of invasive plant species and caring for milkweed plants, which monarchs use to feed on and to lay their eggs on. "Milkweed is a plant that monarchs, specifically monarchs, really need," Kapica said.
The reserve area was first planted with milkweed in 2005 by the SBS Environmental Awareness Committee.
"The habitat has been kind of forgotten," Kapica said. "It's been kind of left on it's own for a few years, and there's a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of this mugwort, which is a very invasive weed. It's not a weed that's easy to pull out; it has deep roots, and you really need a shovel to take it out."
Along with about five other club members and members of the Environmental Commission, Kapica spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 1 taking out as much mugwort from the habitat as possible and planting native species, "which the butterflies can feed off of and get the nectar from," Kapica said.
The plants were donated from the gardens of Debra Bucuk and Chatham Township Committee Member Kathy Abbott. Abbott also helped weed the reserve, along with Kapica's mother and the members of the Chatham High Environmental Club
There is still more work to be done, and Kapica said she plans to organize another day of weeding and planting.
"We also want to make it a learning area for the kids at SBS, so to do that we're going to make the entrance nicer [and] mulch it," Kapica said. She also plans to get the habitat certified as a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch. "Once you get it certified as a site, you get a sign that we can put at the entrance, and that raises more awareness," she said.
Kapica said she is also developing lesson plans that SBS teachers can use to help students learn about monarch butterflies.
Abbott, who serves as the committee's liaison to the Environmental Commission, said monarch reserves are a priority and have much to offer local students. The butterflies, she said, "live about three weeks, but the last ones in September migrate all the way to Mexico. ... The children have lots to learn in that little place."
Kapica's efforts at the butterfly reserve come on the heels of receiving her . As part of her project, she spoke with a representative of Dyson, Ltd. and convinced them to donate eight hand dryers to Chatham High School.
Each hand dryer costs over $300 and costs nearly as much to install. At first, Kapica said she expected to have to fundraise to purchase and install the dryers.
When Dyson agreed to donate the dryers, however, Peter Daquila, the scool district's business administrator, said "(District Building & Grounds Supervisor) John Cataldo and I got involved, [and] we realized that if Sophie could work hard enough to get them donated, the district could find the funds to get them installed."
The recognized Kapica at their May 15 meeting.