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The Daily Plant : Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Growing Together For A Greener Future: Groups Collaborate On A School Butterfly Garden

On Wednesday, May 27, students, parents, Greenbelt staff and board members of the Greenbelt Conservancy gathered at the P.S. 35 Clove Valley School to witness the unveiling of a native butterfly garden. The garden was planted by fourth and fifth-grade participants in the “GreenWorks!” afterschool program. The day celebrated the culmination of a year of service and learning about gardening.

Following the ribbon cutting, the group enjoyed sandwiches and a cake decorated to look like the butterfly garden on a sunny day. Students went into the school’s greenhouse and shared highlights and memories of the past year as a PowerPoint of images, including those from blustery autumn days, were shown. As the PowerPoint concluded, the sun came out, and the day looked more like the one depicted on the cake, as the celebration again shifted outdoors.

Over the course of the school year, Greenbelt Educators Karen Fu and Katherine Trimarco, along with Stephanie Janowitz of PS 35, met with students during weekly afterschool sessions. In the fall, students honed their plant identification, soil testing, measurement, and observation skills, using the school greenhouse and school yard as a learning laboratory. They were well-prepared for the spring planting season.

Students also visited the Greenbelt Native Plant Center and took their parents on a tour of the Greenbelt Recreation Center Nature Trail. During the winter, the entire school became involved, as the student council led an assembly on composting; students and their families brought in fruit and vegetable scraps for the school-wide Compost-a-thon to help produce compost for the butterfly garden.

In the spring, students reviewed what they learned in the fall and applied it to the spring plantings. First, in addition to the compost that was slowly forming from their food scraps, they added over 1 cubic yard of compost, delivered by PRM Frank Carcaterra, to the garden beds and tilled the soil to prepare for planting. On May 14, the students added a colorful array of flowers and grasses such as goldenrod, milkweed, wild bergamot, and switch grass. These species will attract butterflies and other wildlife. On May 2, students helped restore a native forest habitat along the Greenbelt Recreation Center trail, planting trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide ground cover and food for wildlife, including fragrant spicebush, bountiful highbush blueberry, shade-providing sweet gum, red oak, black birch, and tulip trees, and fantastic fall-blooming white wood and blue wood asters. Both the butterfly garden and the native forest habitat have been registered as Certified Wildlife Habitats by the National Wildlife Federation.

The “GreenWorks!” afterschool program, a partnership between the PS 35 Clove Valley School and the Greenbelt, was funded by a $1,000 grant from “GreenWorks!”, the service-learning, community action program of Project Learning Tree that partners Project Learning Tree educators, students, and communities in environmental neighborhood improvement projects.

The “GreenWorks!” afterschool program fostered numerous collaborations between various divisions of Parks as well as various segments of the community. Plants and technical assistance were provided by the Greenbelt Native Plant Center. The Greenbelt Natural Areas Manager, Tony Rho, helped determine the site and plant selection. Compost for the butterfly garden at PS 35 near Terrace Playground was provided by District 1. Maintenance and Operations staff of the Greenbelt Recreation Center and Greenbelt Nature Center transported tools, plants, and drinking water, and helped supervise the planting on the trail that adjoins the two facilities. Volunteers, including parents of the students, a retiree, and a student from Susan Wagner High School also helped provide a safe, enjoyable planting experience. And the experience has given these students, from the North Shore community of Sunnyside in Community Board 1, a valuable experience in the heart of the Staten Island Greenbelt, fostering a bridge between the two communities and restoring beautiful habitats that will benefit residents and visitors of both communities.

The butterfly garden and native forest habitat restoration are testament to the importance of collaboration, and proof that, in these trying economic times, when we pool our resources together we can achieve more than we thought possible, and small steps, taken collectively, can lead to giant leaps in the improvement of our green spaces.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Anne Bradstreet

1612 - 1672

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