The pollinators are coming!
You may have noticed flattened cardboard boxes covering an area near the south entrance to Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School. That plot of ground is being planned for a butterfly garden and outdoor classroom and will include pollinator-friendly plants, artwork by Mt. Royal students, and input along the way from MICA and community members.
The idea took a long time to come to fruition.
It grew out of a 2017 Chesapeake Bay Trust Watershed Assistance Grant application for $75,000 by the Mt. Royal PTO, which sought to de-pave a portion of the schoolyard and create new green spaces. With all the stakeholder meetings, which included community members and organizations, area institutions and non-profits, parents, teachers, and school administrators and staff, everyone was excited to see big changes in the schoolyard. What would happen if the grant application was turned down?
As it turns out, the grant was turned down (though the school was encouraged to reapply next year). In the meantime, Bolton Hill neighbor and Memorial Episcopal Church Creation Care Team member Dick Williams proposed an alternative, which would tap into the momentum generated by the planning process for the Chesapeake Bay Trust grant.
Dick, who owns the green infrastructure consulting firm DW-GREEN Associates, had recently visited the beautiful Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton. Inspired by the visit, and especially the Butterfly House, Dick contacted Ladew’s outreach coordinator, Rachelle Rogers, and discovered that Ladew had partnered with a Harford County Title 1 School in a pilot outreach program that introduces native pollinator plants to the school entrance area and educates students about the plants’ and pollinators’ roles in a healthy biosphere. She offered to make Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School Ladew’s second Title 1 School partner.
Dick and Kimberly Canale, Mt. Royal PTO president, coordinated with Rachelle to plan a pollinator garden classroom on the schoolyard. They were fortunate to obtain the services of Mahan Rykiel landscape architect JoAnn Trach Tongson, who created a beautiful plan for the space.
Ladew, in the meantime, offered several lessons over the winter to students in Carlotta Williams’s and Courtney Burrell’s second-grade classes. These lessons address STEM learning objectives for Mount Royal students to learn about the role offered in watershed restoration by a micro-habitat for pollinators and other wildlife and the importance of a healthy cityscape.
Ladew also invited the entire grade, more than 60 students, as well as the entire rising second-grade class, to visit Ladew’s beautiful gardens this fall when the pollinators are most aflutter.
Meanwhile, MICA ceramics professor Mat Karas agreed to guide Mount Royal second-graders in designing and kiln-firing ceramic stepping stones for the garden. The pickets for fencing surrounding the garden will be designed and painted by Sasha van Wagenberg’s middle school students.
Best of all, the Chesapeake Bay Trust provided funding for the building of the butterfly garden. Under its Environmental Education Mini-Grant program, the Trust awarded the project $5,000, the maximum amount.
Meanwhile, installation of the garden has already begun. In mid-March, despite high winds, volunteers laid down the flattened cardboard boxes over the site suppress the regrowth of the grass monoculture. A week later, a 3-inch layer of mulch was installed. Look for plants—and bees and butterflies—to come over the summer months.