A garden grows at Okanagan Landing

Students at Okanagan Landing elementary school have created an oasis for butterflies, birds, insects and native plants

Okanagan Landing Elementary School Grade 4 students Nick Jensen (left)

Okanagan Landing Elementary School Grade 4 students Nick Jensen (left)

Butterflies are welcome at the Pollinator Habitat Garden at Okanagan Landing School. So are birds — native and migrating — bees and other helpful insects, native plants and people who love nature and want to protect it.

The garden started last spring when Sheila Monroe’s class planted a garden of native plants, including milkweed, which is necessary for monarch butterflies.

After learning that the monarchs are threatened on the west coast of Canada and the U.S., the students worked with the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History on a variety of projects focused on butterflies and other pollinators.

This fall, paper butterflies made by school students will be “migrating” (by mail) to Pacific Grove, one of the winter habitats of monarch butterflies.

“The kids loved the garden. We had salads every week. They understand the importance of environmental stewardship through projects like these,” said school vice-principal, Grade 7 teacher and librarian Colline Johnson, as she watched the students planting beds in the expanded garden (600 square metres) and preparing it for winter. “We hope that this will become a community project. This also fits into all aspects of the new curriculum, including science, social studies, language arts, aboriginal education, health and writing.

“We couldn’t have done this without Dusty Shovel Gardens helping us with information and native, drought-tolerant and sustainable plants.”

Dusty Shovel Gardens owners Buffy Baumbrough and Judy Baumbrough were on hand to help with the planting.

“The kids really impress me with their respect for the plants and how careful they are with the planting,” said Buffy Baumbrough. “They are excited. They know the names of the plants and which species need them, and they have a real connection to the garden. Look, that’s a merlin, there in the big evergreen.

“The school grounds are becoming a more attractive habitat for many species.”

She encourages people to ask at local nurseries for native plants like milkweed, bee balm (monarda), prairie crocus and others.

The students are looking forward to what the garden will be like in the spring.

“We’re trying to attract bees, birds, butterflies and pollinator insects to the area,” said Grade 4 student Nick Jensen.

Ethan Ketterer, also in Grade 4, added, “Different kinds of insects are pollinators for different plants and they are very helpful and the plants need them. We’re lucky that we’re one of the classes in the school that gets to do this.”

Grade 4 student Spencer Elder was also helping with the planting.

“We’re having a lot of fun. It’s really cool helping nature and getting to know all the different plants,” he said.

Murray Hainer, a grandparent and retired biology teacher, came out for planting day.

“I think it’s excellent. It teaches the students about natural ecosystems, stewardship and care and it fits into the curriculum and interests the students,” he said.

Annuals and vegetables will be planted in the garden in the spring and there are plans to include more Okanagan Nation plants traditionally used as food and medicine, as well as restore the grassland, shrubs and trees around the school.

Ray Klinger donated the excavating and the placement of rocks which will be used as basking places for butterflies and people. Other support and funding for the project came from the community and Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, and the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program through the Government of Canada National Conservation Plan and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia.