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Big Spring students plant flowers for pollinator habitat
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Big Spring Schools

Big Spring students plant flowers for pollinator habitat

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The hope is the project will cultivate awareness of a crisis that impacts farmers.

Thirty-five students at Big Spring High School planted hundreds of flowers Wednesday with the goal of providing a habitat for bees and butterflies.

“Not many people realize pollinators are decreasing and that we need them to be able to grow our crops,” junior Taylor Waggoner said. “This is a good way to get involved and bring more attention to the environment.

“We were putting this together for the community,” classmate Becky Cohick said. “I knew it was going to be fun to do with the chapter.”

Both girls are members of the school FFA chapter, which participated in the project to put 650 plants into the soil. They were joined by members of the Environthon Club.

The plants included varieties of blazing stars, milkweed, coneflowers, golden rods, cardinal flowers, lobelias and asters, said SaraBeth Fulton, an agriculture teacher at the high school. The pollinator plot is located below the turf track and field in front of the school.

Work on this project began in January when Kristen Hoke, a restoration specialist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation of Pennsylvania, partnered with Fulton to submit a grant application to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

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A science-based nonprofit organization, the society works protect the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.

The grant was approved in the amount of $553, Hoke said. This was enough money to acquire 650 plant plugs, which Hoke picked up in New Jersey on Tuesday and transported to the high school campus. She helped the Big Spring students plant the flowers Wednesday morning.

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A Newville resident, Hoke was raised on a local dairy farm and graduated from Big Spring High School in 1994. She said the school has an amazing agriculture curriculum with teachers who have participated in other CBF educational programs.

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Hoke knew that the teachers had an interest in developing pollinator plots on the campus. She made them aware of the grant through the Xerces Society, which derives its name from the now extinct Xerces Blue butterfly, the first butterfly species known to go extinct in North America due to human activities.

“For me, it was an opportunity to support education at Big Spring and the community of Newville,” she said. “Pollinators are important to the agricultural community, which is a huge part of the Big Spring School District. There are a lot of farm properties within viewing distance of the high school.”

It is important for public schools to educate students on how to be good stewards of the environment, Fulton said. “They get to see that if you work together, you can accomplish a lot of things.”

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The project Wednesday was a collaborative effort between district groundskeepers who tilled the soil, the Plant and Greenhouse Science students who prepared the plot and the FFA and Environthon students who planted the flowers, Fulton said. Teachers will come in during the summer to maintain the pollinator plot.

“The community is more than welcome to come and see it,” Fulton said. “We have a water tank sitting out there with watering cans. If a community member sees that the ground is dry, they are welcome to water the plants and help us out.” She asked that the watering cans be placed back under the tank.

The project Wednesday at Big Spring was done in coordination with the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, said B.J. Small, media and communications coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania. The partnership seeks to plant 10 million trees throughout the state by 2025.

“Pollinators are an environmental and conservation tool that we don’t see or hear a lot about,” Small said. Invertebrates like bees and butterflies perform a variety of valuable processes that contribute to cleaner air and water, he said.

“We appreciate it when young people get involved and pick up on the idea of doing something good for the environment,” Small said.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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