John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA, is celebrating its new "Kinder-garden" Interpretive Pollinator Garden.
The project began with a Nature of Learning grant to the Friends of Heinz Refuge. Kindergarten students and their sixth grade habitat buddies potted native plants at Longstreth Elementary School. The potted plants were then carefully moved to planting beds at the refuge.
The youngsters created raised planting beds with composted mushroom soil, calling themselves the "ants" as they formed a steady line of black containers moving between the mound of soil and the planting beds. There were excited announcements every time someone found a worm, snail or caterpillar. "All work stopped as our habitat stewards decided on a safe spot to place our new friends," said teacher Chuck Lafferty.
The Longstreth students planted native plants and shrubs in the habitat garden while the sixth graders are creating a brochure to explain the project. One section of the garden will be a compost demonstration area. There is also a garden pond complete with native emergent plants, mosquito fish, tadpoles and a variety of aquatic insects. As a living magnet to explore, the pond was an instant splash for the students, who proudly wore the new "humanity for habitat" T-shirts that they designed themselves in a school art contest.
As refuge manager Gary Stolz says, "The native plant pollinator garden at John Heinz Refuge now teaches all refuge visitors about the importance of native plants to pollinators and how everyone can help pollinators by creating backyard habitat projects at home."
Lafferty called the project a "shining example of what is possible when a group of dedicated and devoted people get together." In addition to the school and the Friends group, the refuge partnership included the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Penn State University Master Gardeners and Project BudBurst as an exciting hand on program connecting more urban kids with nature.
More in the Friends of Heinz Refuge Marsh Musings newsletter (pdf)