Return to Headlines

Students Plant Pollinator Garden At Marion Elementary School

When Margaret Wilson dropped off caterpillars for Debbie Potter's class at Marion Elementary School in September, nobody knew that it would inspire Lincoln Riedman, Jeremiah Rosenbauer and Justin Wickett to leave their own legacy at MES.

But it did.

The arrival of the caterpillars generated questions, which led to the students conducting research, observations and learning. The caterpillars transformed into chrysalises which eventually became Monarch butterflies.

More questions emerged:

  • Why are they leaving?
  • Where are they going?
  • When are they coming back?
  • What do they need to survive?

The students came to the realization that the butterflies needed food and they wanted to do something to help.

With the guidance and support of Potter and her teaching assistant Theresa Kuhn, the class decided to follow the lead of the Farm Club’s garden at MES and create a pollinator garden. 

“We just kept asking questions and trying to find answers,” Potter said. “Eventually it turned into a year-long project.”

The project included more research on plants, bulbs, weather, migration, pollinators and how to protect soil. Lincoln and Justin, who are sixth graders, and Jeremiah, who is in fifth grade, watched many videos on seeds and information was shared by Monroe County Master Gardener John Nelson to learn more about growing milkweed.

“They did everything we asked them to do,” Potter said. “They never refused, they never complained, they just wanted to learn more.” 

The students also made a presentation to MES Principal Dr. Ellen Lloyd, Director of Student Services Nikki Miller and Director of Technology and Innovative Programs David Wise to request permission to plant the garden and receive financial support from the District to purchase plants and supplies (Think “Shark Tank” with gentler investors focused on a different type of return on investment).

“It’s great to see something that started in September as a small community connection turn into something that grows into something bigger and becomes a resource for the entire community,” Lloyd said.

The students planted seeds in their classroom and watched them grow into plants. As spring arrived, plants were purchased, the space was tilled by a volunteer and shovels and plants went into the ground on May 21.

“It’s a little emotional,” Kuhn said while taking a break from planting. “They (the students) have grown so much over the years.”

The garden includes Black Knight butterfly bushes, Purple Cone flowers, Lavender, Zinnias, Milkweed and a mix of insect pollinator seeds.

“Our hope is that this is something that they can return to and stay connected to,” Potter said. “They can come back here and talk about it with future students.”

Talk about project-based learning at its finest.

“This was such a good chance for them to start with an idea and see it through to the end,” Lloyd said. “It has become something that is bigger than them. What a way to culminate the year and their school careers at MES.”

“It has been special,” Potter added. “It has been really special.”