Busy bees at Colrain Central School learn through creation of pollinator garden

  • Service Learning Coordinator Talia Miller supervises Caleb Humphrey and Jaxson Girard as they plant a pollinator garden at Colrain Central School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Second-grade student Caleb Humphrey spreads wood chips on a pollinator garden at Colrain Central School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Abby Kimberley, Lil Adams, Chloe Behilo and Molly Rosss fill up containers of dirt and compost to plant a pollinator garden at Colrain Central School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Second-grade students Waylon Jacques and Wyett Graves plant a pollinator garden at Colrain Central School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 5/27/2021 6:35:30 PM

COLRAIN — Students at Colrain Central School are bringing a pollinator garden to life this spring, with the goal of attracting native bees to their campus.

The garden, a schoolwide service learning initiative, aims to engage the students, connect their own lives with the outdoors, and “connect plants and people,” according to Service Learning Coordinator Talia Miller.

Last fall, in partnership with the Nolumbeka Project, Colrain Central School students started learning about pollinators via Zoom. Tom Sullivan, owner of Pollinators Welcome, also spoke to students about pollinator science. However, Miller said staff members wanted to further expand their students’ knowledge of the connections between pollinators and native planting. Thus, the idea of creating a pollinator garden was born.

Colrain Central School has a history of service learning initiatives that connect students to the nature around them — in 2019, for example, first graders raised trout to help revive the habitat of the North River after a sulphuric acid leak. Since then, the school has continued its work, and was recently awarded a 2021 Green Difference Award from Project Green Schools for its pollinator project in the “Land, Air, Natural World Award” category.

Miller said not only is pollinator science important for the children to learn about, but growing their understanding of the power they have to improve the environment is equally significant. Designing plans within this service learning project is “also supposed to be something kids feel ownership of,” Miller explained. “We retain things that we feel ownership over and things we feel like we can make a difference in.”

Miller and her fellow faculty want students to feel as though this project is theirs.

“It’s important that kids see themselves as active citizens,” Miller said. “It feels really nice to have a project that the whole school can be a part of.”

While every grade at Colrain Central School has been involved, second graders and third graders have been getting their hands dirty the most. Second graders have been overjoyed to do hands-on work with planting and gardening while simultaneously learning about animal and bee habitats in the classroom.

During his class’s planting on Thursday, second grader Caleb Humphrey said he likes digging in the dirt, planting in the garden and working outside in nature.

“I love doing this stuff,” Caleb said. “I help my mom all the time. She’s trying to grow a garden — onions, tomatoes, some salad.”

Like Caleb, second grader Julia Slysz also couldn’t get enough of the action. Eager to keep planting and contributing to the garden, Slysz exclaimed repeatedly, “Can I plant more? Can I plant more?”

While third graders are also planting, they have used the skills they’ve gained from their math lessons to determine the perimeter and area necessary for the garden.

“We labeled the sides of the garden,” third grader Cyrus Richardson explained, producing his sketch and math revolving around the garden’s size. He and his classmates decided on a 6-by-6-meter garden space and measured it with a trundle wheel, resulting in a 24-meter perimeter and a 36-square-meter area.

In connection with their community and the importance of understanding the significance of the land around them, fourth graders will begin to learn next week about the Native American communities who live — and have lived — in the area and the cultural significance of the native plants they’re planting.

“Teachers and families and kids can see the real world connection to what we’re learning in the classroom. It means so much more to practice a mathematical concept,” Miller said, referring to the work the third graders have done, than to solely sit in a classroom and try to do so.

The pollinator garden has also given students the opportunity to learn things about nature they might not have known about before.

“We’ve learned about pollinators and the idea that the pollinators need something to pollinate,” second grade teacher Luann Lord said. She added that they’ve done hands-on learning about flowers by taking apart ones such as daffodils and physically seeing the different parts of the flower — the petals, pistil, stamen — that allow it to be pollinated by bees.

Not only had this project developed excitement from Colrain Central School’s students and teachers, but the community seems to have bought in as well.

“There was a lot of community interest,” Miller said, noting the school received donations from several local businesses and volunteers.

Dorothea Sotiros of the Nolumbeka Project and Elizabeth Erickson, master gardener from Colrain, provided advice on the garden layout. Wood chips were donated by a Colrain Central School family, and paraprofessional Mary Holloway donated her leftover composted soil. Families and staff members donated plants and seeds, and the Bridge of Flowers Committee donated some of its leftover plants. Even community volunteers, like Colrain resident Jonathan Lagreze, came to help the school create the garden.


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