Thursday, August 27, 2009

Youth create Gardens for Wings

Twenty-five youth from the Tustin Explorers 4-H Club and several Cadillac-area home school families joined forces to learn about pollinators and create two butterfly habitat gardens.

Laura Quist, a National Wildlife Federation habitat steward, wanted to give back to Kettunen Center by implementing a project involving local youth. As a habitat steward, she encourages the development of gardens for wildlife through schools and other community efforts.

“Kettunen Center is a perfect place to showcase and model native plants and pollinators,” Quist said. “Kettunen Center has contact with so many people throughout Michigan, and hopefully when guests stroll through the butterfly garden, they will take ideas back with them to their community.”

Quist explained that creating a garden to attract pollinators is important because one out of every three bites of food that humans consume is the result of pollinators. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, ants, beetles and humming birds. Examples of food crops that require pollinators are apples, blueberries, sugar cane and sugar beets.

“Many plants would not produce fruit without bees and other pollinators,” Quist said.

Youth in the Gardens for Wings project planned a butterfly garden at Kettunen Center and another around a new city pavilion in McBain. Activities included a presentation and game teaching why improving habitat for pollinators is necessary and important, presented by Quist. The youth then presented their butterfly garden project idea to the McBain city council.

Over the summer, the youth planted the garden at Kettunen Center and learned about native wildflowers and preferred plants as host plants and nectar plants. They will plant the garden in McBain this fall.

“The gardens are showcasing Michigan’s natural heritage by providing nectar to native animals and plants,” Quist said.

The garden at Kettunen Center includes decorative pavers using cement and stained glass pieces. Jenny Gray, Wexford County MSU Extension master gardener, assisted the youth in planting the garden.

“The kids had a good time arranging the plants in their garden while learning about flower colors, height and the need for shade or sun exposure,” Gray said.

The Gardens for Wings project is made possible by a grant from the American Forest Foundation’s Project Learning Tree Green Works! program. Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an environmental education program for educators and their students in grades pre-K through 12. Green Works! is its service-learning, community action program.

Originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of Vantage.

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