Monday, November 18, 2013

Mending the Pot

by Tracy Leavenworth, District Education Consultant

Prior to their restoration planting efforts, all six classrooms participated in lessons to prepare them for the experience. Weaving in with their studies of ecology in science class, I presented a slide show that vividly displayed the various ways humans alter their environment.
Mending the broken pot.

During an emotionally teachable moment, I took a terra cotta pot, beautifully painted with a lovely riparian natural scene, and broke it in front of the students. “Some people want to put a shopping mall here,” I told them. Wide-eyed, and open-mouthed, to whispers of “She broke that pot! I can’t believe she broke that pot!” the students were effectively stunned. They shot their hands into the air when I asked them if anyone would like to work to restore it. Several students were given a paper plate and glue, and as I continued with the lesson, they worked together to restore the pot.

At the end of the lesson, the restorers were asked to give their reflections:

“It was hard.”
“It was like putting a puzzle back together.”
“It looks pretty good, but not quite like it did before.”
I added that it was likely that Bill and Simba and the other folks at the Watershed District who do restoration plantings would probably have similar reflections about their own experiences.

The lesson completed with a shift to their upcoming planting at Keller Lake Golf Course; I told the students that they all have the power to make a difference, to help restore natural ecosystems, and to chose a lifestyle where they can live in harmony with the land rather than destroy it. The energy in the room was palpable!

 Getting Their Hands Dirty

The future prairie buffer will add beautiful contrast to the surrounding turf.
Simba Blood, District Natural Resources Technician, teaches the students
proper planting techniques.
Laurie Holmberg, Ramsey County Master Gardener, helps a 5th grader
plant prairie natives.
High on a hillside overlooking Keller Lake in late October, 7th and 8th graders from Farnsworth Aerospace science and 5th graders from L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion School gathered together to put something back that had been lost over time. 
Keller Golf Course, once an oak savanna dotted with wetlands was getting a face lift. With trowels and plant plugs, these St. Paul students had the opportunity to make the shattered pot lesson real by assisting the Watershed District in a prairie restoration with support from Natural Resources Technician, Simba Blood, her interns, Janna and Tessa , six Ramsey County Master Gardeners and a few parent volunteers by their sides. 
Paul Diegnau, Keller Golf Course Superintendent explains how he integrates
golf course management with habitat restoration and management.
Paul Diegnau, the Golf Course Superintendent came out and greeted each class and described the care the golf course takes to protect nearby Keller Lake. He explained their irrigation methods and mentioned the features on the site that provide habitat and food for birds, animals and butterflies. He told the students that the Keller Lake eagles who nest above Highway 36 regularly spend time there and that the golf course was a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
This student was also a powerhouse
worker at the Ames Lake spring cleanup.  No
wonder he needs two trowels!

Talk about making a difference!

Don Vegoe, Ramsey County Master Gardener, digs in to help
teach students how to properly transplant plant plugs. 

[For more on the Keller Golf Course Restoration, see our previous post this month, Golf, Gangsters, and Great Blue Heron]

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