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Lesson in environment leads students to plant a plot for pollinators

Kraft Meadows Intermediate sixth-graders work with teacher Becky Bravata and parent volunteers to plant a native pollinator garden before the end of the school year.

Caledonia — Sixth-graders took on the roles of wildlife conservationists, civil engineers, landscape architects, graphic design and marketing professionals and restoration ecologists recently, as they used their green thumbs to plant a native pollinator garden outside their classroom window.

“Fabulous, people,” teacher Becky Bravata exclaimed to the garden full of Kraft Meadows Intermediate School students. “Use your muscles to dig into the ground! We’re getting this garden planted today.”

Bravata and her students worked to plant a variety of young trees and shrubs to complete Scots Garden, a place for bees and butterflies to frolic and thrive.

Sixth-graders Kinley Carver and Avery Bloemers used shovels to dig holes in the dirt for classmate Dominic Kohn to plant zigzag goldenrod, which helps support pollinators and insect activity. 

Fresh off presenting at the Groundswell Stewardship Initiative student project showcase in May, at which students unveiled their garden plans, Bravata and her students wasted no time getting plants into the ground to increase biodiversity and provide wildlife habitats.

“It has been great getting the kids outside for a hands-on project and getting them more informed about the environment and our watershed,” said Bravata, who teamed up with another sixth-grade class to create task forces based on the different roles working to design the garden. 

Planting a Garden and a Legacy 

Guided by Bravata and Lea Sevigny, Joyful Wildcrafting environmental consultant and natural teacher, students dug around rocks near the woods’ edge to plant purple prairie clover, butterfly weed, evening primrose and several other native plant species.

They received donated trees and shrubs from the Kent Conservation District and some from Sevigny’s own supply.

“Between all these plants they’ll have a full garden,” she said. 

Sevigny and parent volunteers used auger drills to put holes in the dense, clay ground then drilled corresponding holes in large pieces of cardboard to lay on top of the ground.

“Planting plants into the cardboard helps keep the weeds from growing around the plant,” said sixth-grader Kellen Mueller, while lowering a plant into a freshly drilled hole. 

Next, the students spread mulch around the plants, on top of the cardboard and were careful not to smother them. Sixth-grader Sam Crosby followed behind each small group with a watering can, making sure each new plant got generously watered.

As part of their project, students researched the Thornapple River Watershed and considered runoff in their landscaping plan. 

Sevigny explained how many of the plants required full to partial sunlight, which the area can accommodate, and a mixture of dry and wet ground.

“This is a wetland area. There is so much water around here,” she said. “Native plants absorb and hold the water where it falls, which helps to keep the wetland clearer.”

Bravata told her students, “This is not going to be a glorious garden right now. It will be in three years when you come back as freshmen and say, ‘I started that.’” 

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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