Seeds of knowledge

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More than 40 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools participated in Native Plant Pollinator Day April 15. Schools received kits from Green Teacher Network with native pollinator plants to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

At Oaklawn Language Academy, students, staff and volunteers from Bank of America and Duke Energy used the kit, grown by the horticulture students at North Mecklenburg High, to expand the school's existing gardens.

"Our students learn about the natural environment through hands-on activities. They also learn about the larger community they live in by sharing what they grow," said Pilar Pedersen, lead teacher for the project. "We benefit greatly from our schoolyard gardens because we can create outside classrooms."

The current gardens are filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs, which are donated to Friendship Trays. The organization delivers meals to people who are elderly, disabled or recovering from an illness. This year, the school has donated 70 pounds of vegetables and herbs.

Pedersen teaches a horticulture class during recess for the middle school students interested in learning the basic gardening skills. She said the addition of the pollinator garden provides teachers with another way of giving lessons about living organisms, soil and plants.

"I've always helped my mom with her garden. I like that I can learn more about it and help with the ones at school," said Cyrus Williamson, a seventh-grader. "I sometimes come during recess to weed, water and maintain the garden. We attend the school's beautification events, too."

Before the new garden was planted, Pedersen gave a short lesson about pollinators, bees and composting. She also discussed natural ways to keep unwanted garden pests away and the best colors to wear when gardening. She explained that dark colors like red and black can aggravate bees. They interpret these colors as belonging to predators such as bears and skunks. 

"The best color to wear is white," said Penderson. "This lack of color will usually make bees leave you alone. In fact, if you ever see a beekeeper, you'll know exactly why the outfit is white."

Oaklawn-Pollination-Garden_insidepic.jpgBank of America volunteer and parent Barbara Gomez found the information and tips helpful.

"My oldest helps with the school gardens and her interests are translating to home," said Gomez. "We are now starting a garden. I'm reading books and finding out more on my own. She remains my go-to because of everything she is learning here."

Pedersen is thankful for the resources and support Green Teacher Network provides.

"Each time I attend a workshop or class, I find out something new. I'm always excited to share what I've learned with my students and other teachers," said Pederson.

Pederson plans to register the pollinator garden with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation's Butterfly Highway program. It is a statewide conservation restoration initiative intended to restore native pollinator habitats to areas impacted by urbanization, land use change and agriculture across North Carolina. Participation in the project is free. Gardeners pledge to support pollinators by providing a place for the butterflies to rest, have a drink and refuel.

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