Spring Planting at Laurel Ridge Elementary

After a late, unexpected frost, spring has finally arrived in Fairfax, Va.

At Laurel Ridge Elementary, 2nd graders prepared milkweed seeds for the school’s new pollinator garden, and made nesting straws for native bees. The school won a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream grant to fund an international garden and outdoor learning lab.

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Under the guidance of Jeanette Stewart and Christine Kauffman from Lands and Waters, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental conservation and education, and Cindy Wacker Barth, of the Monarch Teacher Network, students planted native grasses and nectar-producing plants in a pollinator garden to attract bees and butterflies.

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The children separated milkweed seeds from the fluff that makes them float through the air, and put them on a damp paper towel that will be rolled up and stored in a freezer for three weeks–a process called cold stratification.

Milkweed seeds require a cold period to germinate, and freezing them tricks the seeds into thinking they are experiencing winter. Planting milkweed is essential to attracting Monarch butterflies. Their caterpillars feed only on milkweed.

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The children also constructed nesting straws for bees out of parchment paper, which will be bundled together with twigs and other natural materials and attached to a tree near the pollinator garden. Bees native to this region don’t live in hives. They live in burrows under the ground, and will lay their eggs in the nesting straws.

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Near the school’s playground, raised beds for an international garden have been built and planted with a variety of vegetables that will soon start to emerge out of the ground.

“It’s so important for kids to get outside,” said Kauffman of Lands and Waters. “It’s helps them learn about their environment.”

After the planting session was over, the children were proud of what they accomplished.

“I’m going to ask my mom to come and water our garden!” one student said.

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Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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