Students Create a Learning Garden

 

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

No Silver Bells or Cockleshells, but lots of Earthworms, Ladybugs and Kids!

It all started in January when teacher Marc Ortiz, of St. Simon School in Los Altos, approached us with the idea of a potential science project with his 5th grade class. He explained that the kids choose to participate in Disney's Environmentality Challenge in which the kids are encouraged to think and act environmentally at school, at home, and in their communities. The kids wanted to create a learning garden in which others could learn about "vanishing habitats" and how to attract wildlife into their own backyards. Happy Hollow was a great fit! In fact, the garden in the Zoo is a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat Program.

Our garden has California native plants that attract beneficial insects, shelter for lizards and salamanders, nesting materials for the many bird species found in Kelley Park, and even housing for butterflies and ladybugs. But there was something missing. I could never really pinpoint it until I met Mr. Ortiz's 5th grade class, then I knew. It was the undeniable energy of the kids. They wanted to help the garden "grow" into a place of learning and exploration for Happy Hollow guests, in particular children.

Planting day was wonderfully wild! The students planted coffeeberry bushes, tree mallow, flowering currant, yarrow, and several grass species. But I think all would agree that the highlight was the release of hundreds of earthworms and thousands of ladybugs into the garden! Both of these are insects that every garden wants. Earthworms increase soil fertility and soil aeration and ladybugs, both the larvae and the adults, are voracious aphid eaters - it has been demonstrated that a single ladybug may consume as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime!

The excited squeals and wonder on the student's faces, showed exactly what we had hoped for in this partnership - a garden where children could bloom!

Many thanks to all involved in this project, in particular the children for not only planting the plants, researching the plants and design, raising the funds to make it all happen, but for sharing what they've learned with all who enter the gates of the special little garden in the Zoo.

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