Olmstead School's Butterfly Garden involves many in the community

Posted on October 5, 2019 7:13 PM

When a back entrance to Olmstead School was made a few years ago so that families had immediate access to the Family Resource Youth Center (FRYSC) office, Director Raquel Nash was excited.

“I could meet parents there and take care of their concerns and needs without them having to go through the office,” she remembers. But over time, as she walked in each day, she thought about the unattractiveness of that area. “I just thought it was wasted space, and I wanted my students’ parents to have a pretty area to walk through.”

So the idea of a garden of some sort began to form in her mind. She contacted Leann Martin, who heads the Logan County Cooperative Extension office, and the two began discussing ideas for enhancing the area, including creating a space that could benefit students as well.

“We looked at the curriculum and discovered that butterflies and different flowering plants could be found throughout; thus, teachers and students could benefit from a butterfly garden as a hands on learning environment,” said Martin.

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth. And a butterfly garden is an easy way to see more butterflies and to help them, since many natural butterfly habitats have been lost to human activities like building homes, roads and farms. It is easy to increase the number and variety of butterflies in an area. So, it was decided that a butterfly garden as an outdoor classroom would be a good choice.

From there, Martin drew up the plans, and the Extension Office provided the materials to build the flower boxes. “We’re piloting this program at Olmstead with the intention that if it goes well, and students are enjoying and utilizing it, we can expand this to the other elementary schools in the future. We’re excited that we get to do this and to see how the students and staff will benefit from this space.”

 Lots of hard work went into building the outdoor classroom, which is handicap accessible. Community members and businesses joined in the project. The FRYSC and Extension Office partnered with Dripping Spring Baptist Church youth and youth leaders who provided much of the workforce to complete the project. Named Olmstead Changers, the church youth began their work in July right before the new school year started, working sun up to sun down, preparing the ground, cutting the wood, assembling the planters, filling them with compost, and laying the rock. They each wrote Bible verses deep inside the planters and signed their names.

Student Pastor Blake Sapp said, “At Dripping Spring Baptist Church, we believe in loving on the community we are planted in, and we were super excited to be able to love on the Olmstead community through this project. Because Christ first loved us, we will love on our community in whatever way we can.”

The youth who worked on the butterfly garden were present or former students of Olmstead. Calista Petrie, 8th grader at Olmstead said, “Being able to build something that future students will be able to see and enjoy is truly amazing. Knowing that I, along with others, have left our own mark on the school is truly a blessing. We were able to show our love to the community through this.”

Savannah Hayes, a Logan County High School junior, said, “As a former Olmstead student, it was really cool to be able to help build the garden boxes. It helped me show my love for the school. Olmstead will always have a special place in my heart. We are very glad that the students, staff, and community can enjoy it.”

Harley Robertson, also a junior at LCHS, stated, “Getting to participate in the building of the flower garden was super meaningful to me. Olmstead taught me so much, and the teachers there molded me into who I am today. Being able to give back to the teachers and students that are there now means a lot to me.”

 Once the planters and walkways were constructed, Brandon White of Logan County Landscaping provided the rock for the walkways. After that, all that was left was to plant flowers.

While they were researching the best butterfly-attracting flowers to plant in the spring, greenery began to grow in one planter to become what is now a huge cluster of vines. Students have thoroughly enjoyed these vines, now identified as pumpkins, stretching up the wall and creeping out over the walkway next to the school.

Principal Bonnie Watson said, “I don’t know if the pumpkins will mature before the weather changes arrive, but the flowering vines have been fun to watch spread out over such a big area. Kids just ‘ooh and ahhh’ over them. It’s a joy to see their smiles and hear their laughter when looking at them.”

In September, first grade students asked to plant mums as a kindness project for the month. Kevin Ferguson , with Hickory Hill Greenhouses, provided the flowering plants and supported students planting them.

 LCHS junior Blake Wood was impressed with the young students’ work. “When I was a student at Olmstead, I looked forward to doing fun activities, and I’m sure those kids had fun planting. Olmstead School is a major part of the community, and I know people enjoyed hearing about them having fun planting in the garden.”

 What’s next? Nash says although the space is already a beautiful area for students, staff, and parents to use and enjoy, “I’m looking to adding shepherd’s hooks, stepping stones, and an irrigation system to make it even better. The Soil Conservation District has donated butterfly houses that we will put out after winter weather, and we’ll plant some flowers that will attract butterflies. We’re also planning for picnic tables to be placed beside the garden for students to use as part of their outdoor classroom experience.”

Principal Watson is very pleased with the outcome. “We greatly appreciate the many people who came together to make this a reality. Our students, staff, and community will benefit from this for years to come. It will grow with our students, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

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