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Butterfly garden cultivates outdoor learning space

Written on May 1st, 2012

[caption id=”attachment_863” align=”aligncenter” width=”348”]Sarnia348 A Sarnia Christian School student spends a moment in the butterfly garden.[/caption]

When Mary Abma took in a presentation on native plants while finishing a botany-focused art project she ended up sparking the development of a new butterfly garden at Sarnia Christian School.

Abma, curriculum co-ordinator at the school, says the presentation by Shawn McKnight and Larry Cornelus who run Return to Landscape showed an aerial view that included Sarnia Christian School.

Through Return to Landscape, McKnight and Cornelus go into construction sites and rescue native plants that can be transplanted into areas with similar soil and growing conditions.

During the presentation, they mentioned a desire to partner with schools and city parks, and even pointed on the aerial view to Sarnia Christian School as an example of where the plants could be moved.

Abma approached them after the presentation and suggested perhaps the school could work with them.

She says she then talked with staff members who were interested in having a garden on the school grounds where students could engage with and learn about native species.

The teachers talked about the different Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) curriculum that, with minor tweaking, would line up well with learning about native species in the garden, including the unit entitled The Earth, God’s Garden.

“There’s so many ways you can connect this to curriculum so it makes it very real for (students),” Abma tells the OACS News.

Last fall, McKnight and Cornelus installed the garden at the school, at no cost. The plants are native species that tend to attract butterflies.

Abma says the teachers are all very excited about the garden and having students engage in related curriculum, art and writing projects.

“The new plants are coming up and for a lot of people a garden like this represents wildness, it requires a bit of a different way of thinking about gardening,” says Abma, noting it doesn’t look like a typical manicured garden.

She says the garden is a good way to introduce students to environmental issues.

“This will become more than something that benefits us, we want to turn it around and then benefit the broader community and have the students involved in that,” says Abma.

The students will help with collecting seeds from the plants and start seedlings, which will help propagate the native species, says Abma.

An official butterfly garden opening is being planned, likely to be held in June.