Meredoaisa 8th Grade Science Class Builds Experience Through Pollinator Garden

By Benjamin Cox on April 18, 2023 at 5:49pm

Meredosia 8th-grade science students are getting hands-on experience in horticulture.

Thanks in part to grant funding and a partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Meredosia students have their own nature preserve that they are currently putting together. So far, the nature preserve has been awarded two grants for approximately $1000 each – one from the Illinois Native Plant Society’s Central Chapter and the other from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Illinois Schoolyard Habitat Action program.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist Stephanie Bishir has been a key partner with the wildlife preserve project. Bishir says that the space has a long-term goal of being a center for the school and the community.

“So the grant is going towards helping build a pollinator garden with native plants, and once this is done it’s going to be an outdoor educational space that the students can use, but also a space that the community can come and visit anytime.”

Bishir says from a conservation standpoint, the preserve, which will house approximately 35 different species of pollinator-attracting plants in raised beds, is vitally important to have and maintain. She says spaces like this also become an important teaching tool to the public.

“Even a small space like this can help support native pollinators, bees, butterflies, and that sort of thing. But it can also help educate people so once they see native plants growing in this garden, they can start to thin about gardens in their own home and what they can plant in their own space.”

Meredosia 8th Grade Science Teacher Robin Varner says that students are putting some of what they are learning in the classroom into hands-on skills. “They’re learning a wide variety of different skills. Meeting several state goals as well, but more importantly, the skills they are picking up, whether it be gardening or carpentry, are Just life skills that they can take out into the world, especially for students who excel in hands-on work and hands-on projects, this is learning that makes sense to them. Mush more than sitting in a classroom and memorizing a textbook or listening to a discussion. This, they’re learning in a completely different way and in a way I know they will use after they leave this class.”

Varner says that Meredosia Village Board members have approached the class to make raised garden beds to place around town as a beautification project. Varner says the nature preserve will be a teaching tool for years to come will multiple chances at real-life experience.

“We’re going to have an outdoor classroom that is not just available to just the school, or just to my classroom, but throughout the grade school and the community. We want to be able to have lectures out here, bring kids out here so they can learn. But even during summer school because I’m also the assistant director of our summer school program. So we’ll be able to bring them here and do summer school classes and lectures, and learn.

Each of the beds is going to have fliers or signs posted telling us what that is about. About pollination, about native species versus invasive species. All these different topics they can learn by coming here, and all of these different experiences is something that is real in their life. We can use it not just for the school, but for the community, and I hope it helps them develop a sense of community pride.”

The project is expected to be finished within the next year, depending on further funding opportunities.