KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Students at George Washington Elementary gathered Friday morning to celebrate the school’s newest outdoor learning space, a 2,100-square-foot pollinator garden.
Planting for the garden began in May of this year, with help from Keep Kingsport Beautiful (KKB) and donations from GWES’s Parent Teacher Association. Four months later, caterpillars are already making their home among the milkweed plants.
“We’ll have to follow their path and come out and monitor them on a regular basis to see if we can capture the actual reveal of the monarch butterfly,” GWES Principal Heather Wolf told News Channel 11.
KKB council member Neil Brown has spearheaded the group’s efforts to encourage the establishment of pollinator gardens across Kingsport.
Brown told News Channel 11, he’s working to encourage native plants across the city to improve local ecosystems.
“Somewhat selfishly, humans depend on pollinators a lot,” Brown said. “Obviously, honeybees are very well known and very well talked about. They’re very agriculturally important. But there are so many other species of native pollinators that that are playing a role in our agricultural system.”
It’s not just the human food supply that relies on pollinators, Brown said. For example, said Brown, baby chickadees consume 1,000 caterpillars before they leave the nest.
“You could see how things are just sort of fall apart if you don’t have your native caterpillar or your native pollinators around, of which, you know, butterflies are one,” Brown said.
The garden won’t just provide a waystation for migrating monarchs and a home for other native insects, Wolf said the garden will supplement students’ learning in the classroom.
“We believe that Earth and life sciences are best taught in the authentic setting where they occur,” Wolf said.
There are already plans in place for the school’s garden club to work in the garden and for classes to practice their focus on generosity by tending to the garden.
“We’re excited for them to really see what that means rather than being in a book but being actually hands-on out here in the garden,” Wolf said.
Brown said this is the fourth and largest garden installed by KBB, but he’s not ready to stop.
“I’d love to see something like this at every single elementary school in Kingsport and also in Sullivan County,” Brown said. “I hope that we can have that much success.”