“Without funding to help with the infrastructure, the pollinator garden at Sawtooth Elementary School wouldn’t have been possible,” says Diane Booth, director of the Cook County Community Center and Extension. With the help of Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, Arrowhead Electric Round-Up Grant Board and Cook County Extension grants, Cook County Master Gardeners built the garden with community youth for the school in Grand Marais.
The garden has been used in the YMCA summer youth program as well as part of the science curriculum at the school. “We show kids the eggs on the milkweed, the chrysalises, the caterpillars and what the caterpillars and butterflies eat,” says Diane. “The whole cycle is magical to them.”
Students also learn about how important the ecological cycle is for both pollinators and plants. Specific plants were selected to attract pollinators to the adjacent vegetable gardens. “We had talked about pollinators, but the kids hadn’t connected them with how food grows,” says Diane.
In the pollinator garden, apple trees and grapes grow with native, pollinator-friendly plants, such as Echinacea and Rudbeckia. The garden pathway is marked by glass mosaic paving stones the students made to show the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly.
“Most kids don’t have an appreciation of where food comes from, pollinators, nor how they are connected,” says Diane. “That’s why it’s so essential to have gardens and teach kids about them with hands-on curriculum.”