Murray students dig in to pollinator garden

Jon Schumacher, chair of St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education, helps students cut and roll up sod to till the soil.

Jon Schumacher, chair of St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education, helps students cut and roll up sod to till the soil.

Murray Middle School students broke ground on a pollinator garden on Earth Day, April 22. Led by their teacher, Tim Chase, students researched sites, flowers and soil types needed for the garden, proposed it to the administration and community members, and were awarded a grant for the supplies from the Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota.

The students are members of the Ecology Inquiry Immersion (e2) class, an elective taught by Chase, which aims to advance students’ skills and develop a deep interest in science. With support from the MN Green Schools Coalition (a program of U.S. Green Building Council, MN) volunteers from USGBC, the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) facilities department and board of education, and the Monarch Lab were recruited to help the students dig in. Other resources—compost and its delivery, sod cutter rental and garden tools—were donated by the Mulch Store, SPPS, Sunbelt Rentals and the Green Building Council.

The garden project is collaboration with six other SPPS programs spanning four gardens. Three schools in the city will host pollinator gardens and the fourth is hosted at Belwin Outdoor Science Center in Afton, where the study was spearheaded. Students will use these gardens to study the effects of climate change using citizen science to understand the importance of native species to the life cycles and food chains of our ecosystems, the differences between urban and rural planting, and the ever-varying change of seasons. Final planting will be completed on May 24, which happens to be during Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Planting Week.

The students in the e2 class use project-based learning to choose and develop solutions to real problems related to the environment and the school’s neighborhood. Past projects include proposing a rain garden, choosing where to send the harvest from the school’s vegetable gardens, biodiesel testing and solutions to reduce automobile emissions in the city.

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