The Chattanooga Area Pollinator Partnership (CHAPP) is pleased to give its fourth Seeds for Education grant to Fairyland Elementary School. The SFE grant was created to help expose students to the plants and plant communities that exist in our natural areas, offering food, habitat, biodiversity, and sustainability to our local pollinator species. Our hope is that these students and many who come after them will learn about these native plants, as well as the birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife that depend on them.
Jeremy Roerdink, principal of FES, is excited about the grant. “We are thankful for CHAPPS Seeds for Education Grant! It is partners like this that help educate students and bring awareness to the need for quality habitats on Lookout Mountain for butterflies and bees to thrive,” he said.
The award will allow Ms. Delin Brown, FES Kaleidoscope teacher, to purchase native plants to expand the existing garden. Ms. Brown said, “We know that bees and butterflies are in decline due to a lack of flowering plants, poor nutrition, and pesticide use. Since native plants are a key component of pollinator gardens, we hope that our new pesticide-free garden and monarch waystation will provide our pollinators with the habitat they need to survive and prosper at Fairyland Elementary.”
Ms. Brown and her Kaleidoscope students started the pollinator garden in 2016 with the support of the Principal Roerdink and the PTO. Students designed the garden, and parent Mike Willingham laid out the brick paths and perimeter. Students learned how to grow plants from seeds by experimenting with cold stratification both inside, using a freezer, and by letting seeds overwinter in the ground. Trial and error and data collection are helping students to maintain and solve problems in the garden.
Students learn quiet a bit via this garden. Vermicomposting, a three-year classroom project, raises worms, and their compost “black gold” is used to enrich the soil in the garden. The garden is watered by a rain collection system developed by STEM students from Ridgeland High School.
Students learned that monarchs, also known as the milkweed butterflies, are in decline because of the destruction of their habitat. Since milkweed is crucial to the lifecycle of the monarch, the Fairyland Monarch Waystation will include three kinds of milkweed - swamp, common, and butterfly weed. Students joined Monarch Watch, a national network of students, teachers, volunteers, and researchers that track the fall migration of monarchs. Students collect data from their waystation and, therefore, are helping to support the national movement to conserve the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus. The principal pointed out, “Our butterfly garden has been certified by the University of Kansas as an official monarch waystation, and this grant will help us provide the milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through the United States.”
Why are outdoor classrooms such as Fairyland’s pollinator garden valued in the education process? Students are in charge of researching, planning and maintaining the pollinator garden. Hands-on application of this knowledge involves students in a garden that promotes connections with nature and conservation. Students from other grades joined the Kaleidoscope students with studies on pollination and the lifecycle of the butterfly. Articles in the school newspaper reported information collected from the waystation. Members of the Bee City USA committee, the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club, and Fairyland’s PTO have volunteered to help in maintaining the garden. Brown said, “We hope our garden will become a teaching and learning laboratory to encourage our school community, as well as the Lookout Mountain, Ga., community at large, to plant pollinator gardens in their yards. We need pollinators, and pollinators need us!”
Bee City USA Committee Chairperson Candace Chazen said, “We are so happy about the addition of another pollinator garden in the Lookout Mountain, Bee City USA community. Pollinators support our ecosystems and natural resources by helping plants reproduce. We hope that residents will visit the gardens at FES and Lookout Mountain School to learn about native plants and see all the different kinds of bees, butterflies, and birds that these gardens will attract. We are very proud of Ms. Brown and her Kaleidoscope students for adding another outdoor classroom for us and the pollinators to enjoy.”