by Stephanie Johnson and Robin Finehout
The Forest Park Legacy Garden is one of our school garden projects, designed and tended by Master Gardener Karen O’Leary with help from Forest Park science teacher Teresa Ballou and her Ecology students of years past. Christine Tabbert, and her son Ethan (both MG’s) helped mulch the bed, and Jannell Bryant and Jeanne Lamczyk helped plant 200 monarch friendly milkweed plants. The Eagle Scouts built the benches where students and teachers alike can sit and relax. Funding for this school garden was provided by PWC Master Gardeners, PWC Solid Waste Division, and Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries (thanks to Leslie Paulson), and rocks were donated by Vulcan Quarry. The newest part of the garden was installed last year and is all native plants. The gardens are pollinator friendly, and the milkweed provides food for monarch butterflies. Teresa Ballou and her students chose the name Legacy because they wanted to leave a beautiful place for future generations of students and teachers.
The Forest Park Legacy Garden, by Stephanie Johnson. Pictures by Kim Adkins Zell at JustKim Photography
Quietly tucked in on the far side of Forest Park High School, is a not so quiet native garden, which appears to be a very busy natural highway for the bees and butterflies. The bright orange and black wings of Monarch butterflies beat briskly from flower to flower. The laughter and movement of teens admiring the purple, orange, yellow, and pink flowers didn’t disturb the hardworking pollinators one bit. Everyone seems delighted with the addition of the native garden. While taking notes a photography class arrived with all smiles, partially due to the break they were receiving from the classroom on such a beautiful and sunny day. Most didn’t have cameras at home so this was a prime opportunity for the students to capture a piece of nature as a subject matter.
Textbooks come alive in the garden where the sensory is welcomed at all ages and students begin to enhance their planning abilities by considering how they can directly have an effect upon the habitat. It’s hard to imagine that we could need something as small as a bee. Despite our complex problem solving skills, tool making, and philosophical thinking, we too are just mammals living within a community which greatly relies upon each of its members. Students begin to connect themselves to their communities and notice their own positions within this environment. As the native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators begin to disappear, we start to see the same disappearing act throughout the food chain. From the smallest organisms in the water to the largest winged birds soaring and stalking prey, we can greatly impact the health of everything living in our communities. By adding native habitat gardens to schools, Prince William County students are being taught to identify local plant life and how to incorporate these plants within a landscape, while developing a sense of responsibility when caring for the garden and interacting in nature.
This is just one of the four school locations which participated in this native habitat project. Master Gardener volunteers of Prince William County came to each location and planted native flowers and grasses to encourage a healthy natural habitat for the local wildlife. Woodbridge High School, Garfield High School, and the Juvenile Detention Center have all participated in this wonderful mission to educate the students of the benefits associated with native plants and the major role they play for our local wildlife ecosystem. The students were able to select some of the plants, and enjoy watching the constant activity within the garden. The Master Gardeners weren’t the only community members who helped to support this project. In addition to local sponsors, The Boys Scouts came and built benches for students to sit peacefully around the garden.
As we continue to grow as a county, we must be diligent about incorporating the plants which the local wildlife relies upon. The Master Gardeners of Prince William County are a great resource for native plant suggestions and answering horticultural and environmental related questions. By working with the students we are ensuring a more conscious, clean, and prosperous Prince William County of the future.
Thank you for the beautiful pictures, Kim Adkins Zell at JustKim Photography http://www.justkim.com/