Opening ceremony, May 5, 2019, for the Monarch Way Station created by Girl Scout Troop 31086 at the Marin Humane Society. Novato Mayor Eric Lucan, with his five-month-old son Noah in his arms, did the honors of cutting the ribbon.
From my experiences as the Garden Education Manager at the Marin Art and Garden Center for about 10 years, I know that children love being outside in a garden setting. We offered a very successful “Exploring Habitats” field trip program that brought hundreds of eager elementary schoolchildren to our gardens. Often they hated to leave and they would also very often come back after school with a parent in tow, to “show and tell” about the worm bin, or the caterpillars and butterflies, or the creatures they saw in the little pond.
A garden can be wonderful education tool, and teachers can integrate these outdoor experiences and lessons into their curriculum. Our chapter is actively supporting the efforts of teachers and schools to provide these opportunities by helping them to create habitat gardens on their campuses. We do this by donating California native plants, seeds, and educational materials. The teachers are very grateful for the help, and the word is spreading!
Since the beginning of the year, we have donated plants and seeds to the following schools and projects:
Caulbridge School at St. Vincents in San Rafael
Teacher Nancy Morita is also a naturalist and experienced native gardener. We donated plants and seeds valued at $151 to help her create a new garden area on campus.
Miller Creek School in Terra Linda
Master Gardener Nina Cunnan works part time as the school garden manager and wanted to add more California natives to increase the habitat value and bring more butterflies and bees into the gardens. We donated plants and wildflower seeds valued at $110 to support her efforts.
Walker Creek Outdoor School in West Marin
Steven la Gatta is employed as the Naturalist and Garden Team Leader at this beautiful location where Marin schoolchildren have the opportunity to stay for an extended field trip to explore nature. Steven was very excited about transitioning a garden that had been focused on growing food plants to one that brings in more pollinators and supports the wildlife in the area. We donated plants and seeds valued at $302 to help with this “make-over.”
Brookside Elementary School in San Anselmo
Together with SPAWN, our school programs partner, we helped support the efforts of teacher’s aide Claire Podoll, who has worked to create native plantings all around the campus. One garden area is “for the birds,” with coffeeberries, toyon, pink-flowering currants, and gooseberries. Another garden contains pollinator plants including ceanothus, California fuchsias, buckwheats, yarrow, and narrow-leaf milkweeds. SPAWN grew a number of these plants in their own nursery. We donated plants valued at $45 to help support the effort.
Milkweed and Wildflower Seed Projects There’s been a lot of news about the steep decline in the populations of the western monarch butterfly. Many Earth Day events and projects have brought awareness to the situation, as well as ideas on what we can do to help save the western monarchs. We donated thousands of narrow-leaf milkweed seeds (about two ounces of Asclepias fascicularis) to the Marin County Parks and Open Space District for an Earth Day event led by Greg Reza, volunteer coordinator. Greg, Mia Monroe, and Audrey Fusco, along with several SPAWN interns, worked with the students at Mill Valley Middle School to make “milkweed seed cookies,” which will be used to help restore the Monarch’s larval host plants to open spaces in parts of the county.
Susan Ramos, Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center in the East Bay Regional Parks District, also led an Earth Day project making seed cookies, but her group made cookies with a mix of native wildflower seeds to help all the pollinators! We donated a seed mix that will bloom for months.
Other school groups, like the Marin School of Environmental Leadership students at Terra Linda High, earn money for their garden projects by packaging and selling native seeds that we donate. Teacher Chris Lyon at Ross Valley Charter School and her students will package and sell seeds to raise funds; their contributions will help farmers in Africa dig more wells and realize a better harvest. We donated seeds of mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata). It’s not hard to sell seeds, nicely packaged up, of this gorgeous native wildflower!
Community Gardens: Marin CNPS is also supporting community gardens by providing educational materials and mentorship for projects such as the monarch way station created by Girl Scout Troop 31086 at the Marin Humane Society. The garden opening ceremony took place on May 5; Novato Mayor Eric Lucan, with his five-month-old son Noah in his arms, did the honors of cutting the ribbon.
—Charlotte Torgovitsky, Marin CNPS Schools Programs Chair