“Science is fun,” Bereket Betley, a first-grader at The Orchard School, said.
Betley’s excitement about science stems from a partnership between his school and the Feed a Bee program. Orchard students and faculty will transform its butterfly garden into a pollinator garden, featuring flowers, milkweed and other plants that attract more than just butterflies. Pollinators, as they’re known in the science world, include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and other insects and animals.
With funding from Feed a Bee, a program that creates habitats for pollinators and educates on the importance of pollinators in our ecosystem, the garden will be an educational and environmental resource.
Last year, kindergarteners created a single-bed pollinator garden. They loved the experience so much that one student suggested a similar project with Orchard’s larger garden, which needed revitalizing. Even though the garden is much larger than their previous flower bed, the students voiced support and excitement for the idea.
“Orchard prides itself on trying to follow student voice when possible, and this was obviously student voice saying, ‘We want to do this, and we feel like we can do it,’” science teacher Vicky Prusinski said.
Prusinski researched grants to fund the endeavor and discovered Feed a Bee, a program from the pharmaceutical company Bayer that is active in all 50 states.
“The Orchard School’s project fits very seamlessly in the Feed a Bee mission of increasing food for pollinators while providing that pollinary education for its surrounding community,” Becky Langer, a project manager with Feed, said. “We’re very excited to see what this project will bring.”
Once completed, the pollinator garden will be a quiet and inspirational place for reading and writing programs and a resource for STEM activities. For example, older students could dissect and study the plants while younger students can research which plants attract certain pollinators, choose a pollinator to attract and fill the garden with those plants. The customizable aspect will provide a unique experience to every new class, Prusinski said.
The pollinator garden will also serve an environmental mission. Langer said honey bees, one of the easiest pollinators to track, increased in population over the past few years. However, the bees, like other pollinators, face a lack of habitats. Feed a Bee projects, such as Orchard’s Pollinator Garden, provide these much-needed habitats for pollinators while educating people of their impact on the environment. Prusinski noted that one out of every three bites of food would not exist without pollinators.
“We could get the butterflies back and bees,” first-grader Sophia Laborsky said.
Prusinski hopes to do the majority of construction in May and complete the new garden before the school year ends.
“I’m biased because I’m a science educator, but nature as teacher is one of our main tenets,” Prusinski. “Just the whole experience is using nature as a teacher. We’re exploring what is a pollinator, what is they’re role in nature, why are they are so important.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.