Apr. 22—ASHLAND — North Schuylkill students in the Schuylkill Achieve after-school program worked through snow flurries Wednesday to prepare a pollinator garden outside the elementary school.
North Schuylkill is one of four school districts in the county to have a Monarch Waystation pollinator garden on its grounds, along with Schuylkill Haven Area, Pine Grove Area and Saint Clair Area.
Leah Zerbe, owner of Potter's Farm in Pine Grove, is working with the districts to cultivate the gardens, which will attract native bees, butterflies, moths, bats and birds.
"These gardens will become living labs for the students," Zerbe said. "We didn't want to just plant a cute garden. The kids will be learning ecology, biology and the interactions between plants and wildlife."
A group of around 25 North Schuylkill students spent Wednesday afternoon pulling weeds from an old vegetable garden and planting shrubs.
Zeanie Bazquez, a sixth grader, said she was looking forward to seeing how the garden turns out when everything is planted.
"It'll look nice and healthy," Zeanie said. "I think it's important to keep our school looking beautiful."
Hope Flickinger, a North Schuylkill eighth grader, said she was not only happy to help clear out the garden but also to work with the younger students.
"It's nice to be able to help the school and show the younger kids how many people came out to help," Flickinger said.
Jackie O'Prey, special education teacher, said working in the garden is a good opportunity for students to get hands-on learning.
"They need to learn to love their environment and take care of it," O'Prey said.
Furthermore, O'Prey said she was happy to see the kids working together and showing interest in the work.
"What I like is that the kids are asking lots of questions," O'Prey said. "That's really important."
Michael Yablonsky, sixth-grade social studies teacher, said the work can also help students develop new skills or advance their interests.
"It teaches them life skills they might not get at home," Yablonsky said. "And it could be something they want to do in the future, like farming."
North Schuylkill and Schuylkill Haven Area school districts both received grants from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to expand their gardens this year.
North Schuylkill's garden will include common milkweed, butterfly milkweed, Virginia wildrye, white wood aster, false sunflower, wild bergamot, tall white beardtongue, Black-eyed Susan, gray goldenrod, smooth blue aster, New Jersey tea, Virginia rose, highbush blueberry and arrowwood viburnum.
Zerbe said by May, the four school districts will have a combined 10,000 square feet of native wildlife habitat, all through the work of students.
"It's a great opportunity for the kids, especially this year during COVID," Zerbe said. "It's good for them to be outside."