Life depends on the little things we take for granted. The third graders at Arundel learned this lesson when they studied the importance of pollinators such as bees and butterflies and their impact on larger issues like food supply through Project-based Learning (PBL). To enhance the unit, the third grade teachers launched a PBL project that asked students to look at the school habitat and investigate the plants and animals that could survive on campus. When students determined that the large, dry dirt area stretching in front of the third grade classrooms was not an attractive habitat for wildlife, they took action to turn it into a native plant garden that would both beautify the space and attract the pollinators they studied. Collaborative funding from the SCEF Educator Innovation Fund and the Arundel PTA helped bring the garden to life.
Students kicked off the PBL by writing letters and persuasive speeches to the principal and vendors to persuade leaders to invest in the garden. They worked collaboratively in teams to become experts on three different plant species, including when they bloomed, what pollinators they benefitted, the maintenance required, drought resistance, and cost. They sketched out group designs of the space that included native plants, existing trees and bushes, and “extras” like stepping stones and benches. Over 100 people from the Arundel community participated in the school-wide planting day, which gave students the chance to actually plant the native plants they researched. Once the garden was completed, students taught other classes about the pollinators it could attract, and they created handmade placards placed throughout the garden highlighting the pollinators at work.
The third grade teachers reflected that the project was mind-opening for their students; they became truly passionate about their cause and connected to the environment. And, perhaps just as importantly, the effort to attract pollinators was successful. One teacher noted, “it is so nice to walk down the hall and admire monarchs that were never there before.” The garden project was an overall success both educationally and environmentally, and the Arundel community will be able to enjoy the benefits and the beauty of the new garden for years to come.