DUNN — Students at Midway Elementary School enjoyed digging into the earth and planting flowers Friday morning. After they bloom, they hope to attract little visitors with wings.
The school installed a butterfly garden with the help of The Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science (UTOTES), an educational program administered by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Funding was provided through the Simple Gifts Fund, which provides financial assistance to educators.
Megan Chesser, a teacher education specialist from the museum, led the installation of the habitat. The purpose is to enhance the school grounds as a place to learn about wildlife. Classes at MES removed weeds, spread out topsoil and a weed cloth to stop unwanted plants from growing. Next, plants were placed into the ground to attract bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators. Some of them included milkweed, purple coneflowers and horsemint.
Students also made roly-poly houses from carved out potatoes, in the form of an igloo. Several of them will be placed around the school to attract rolly pollies.
“Everyone one in the garden benefits from the garden by being outside,” Chesser said. “That’s not just the students, but the teachers themselves.”
Chesser heard a lot of remarks from students who wanted to stay outside the entire day and play in the garden. She said the children get to take ownership of the process by planting and caring for the garden.
“Students are much more engaged when they have their hands busy,” Chesser said. “They feel more connected to their own learning, but also the earth.”
While digging, Chesser and the students investigated worms and other creatures.
“They get really excited,” she said. “You can see that joy on their face and the curiosity about the world around them.”
For Laura Spear, outreach specialist for the museum, it was her first time building a garden at the school. She believes it’ll provide a lot of benefits for the school.
“They’ll be able to learn about the importance of pollinators and I think it’s really valuable for them to be involved in the whole process to see how it’s done,” Spear said. “It’s really important for kids to get an education to connect more with the outdoors.”
Spear added that pollinators are an important source for our food sources.
“A lot of people, especially kids end up being afraid of things like butterflies and bees,” she said. “But planting a garden and seeing how much is put into this, will instill in them that they’re things we should love and appreciate.”
Melanie Harris, parent of Laura Lee Harris, assisted teachers and museum leaders with the planting.
“It’s a great project for the children and for the school,” Harris said. “We hope more parents can come out here and be involved and enjoy it.”
Gehemiah Blue, MES fourth-grader, enjoyed participating in the activity along with other students. He learned that special care is necessary for the plants.
“It’s pretty fun to watch to see if they’ll grow,” Blue said about the plant.
His teacher, Tally Jackson, is excited about the future of the garden and seeing a lot of butterflies in the spring.
“It’s always fun to get outside and do hands-on instead of just sitting in the classroom and doing stuff,” Jackson said.
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