Habitat restoration project will provide food for migrating pollinators
GRANVILLE — Most of the great Midwestern prairie has been lost and replaced by farmland and community development. A new project at Putnam County High School is aimed at restoring a portion of this habitat that's vital for migrating species.
"This project will provide an important food corridor through Granville for the monarch butterfly," Putnam County High School custodian Mark Wackerlin said.
Wackerlin, who also has a bachelor's degree in environmental science, is one of the project's leaders.
He has joined Tracy Reaska, Putnam County High School director of facilities, and the students of Alisa Stewart's Environmental Science class to help restore portions of the school's landscaped lawn to a native prairie.
"We've grown many of the plants being planted this semester during our class and have also been sorting seeds, planting, and transplanting. It's been a long winter, and getting to spend some time working on a project which will improve our school has been great," Stewart said.
Stewart's class is also helping with Putnam County High School American History teacher Cory Meyer's Victory Garden project, as well as continuing to run the school's recycling program.
Wackerlin and the students recently helped to plant 200 coneflowers along both sides of the school's new sidewalk and around the building.
"Coneflowers are an important food source for the adult Monarch butterfly, and we're also planting milkweed, the only plants where they'll lay their eggs and which their caterpillars will eat," he said.
Other native plants that will soon begin appearing around the campus and benefit a wide variety of pollinators include Rudbeckias, Prairie Docks, Wild White Indigos, Compass Plants, Big Bluestems, and more.
Putnam County High School senior Tony Kerivan described what he enjoys about this environmental restoration project.
“Being involved in something that helps our environment is inspiring, and I think this class is a great way to teach future generations to respect our planet and take care of it,” he said.
Stewart said a future goal is to complete a wetland project next year on the property of Trent and Jan Griffith, which is adjacent to the high school. Their son, Luke, is in Stewart's class.
"Last semester, students visited the property, learned about native plants, measured the property, and designed projects which they presented to the Griffiths, Superintendent Carlson and Principal Theisinger. We were hoping to work on the site this spring, but unfortunately the weather never cooperated. We have plans for next year's class to grow, clear and plant in the fall, and it should take about three years to get it where it needs to be," she said
She added the family has agreed to let the class restore other sites, as well.
"It's all very exciting, and the hands-on nature of it is great for the students," Stewart said.
Putnam County High School Principal Clay Theisinger said the project began with discussions between Reaska, Wackerlin, Stewart, Superintendent Carl Carlson and himself.
Wackerlin's background in environmental plant sciences has been helpful in assisting with classes this year that are learning about ecology and horticulture. Throughout the remainder of the year and next year, students are learning how to care for the plants and their growth through the application of the skills and knowledge they've learned in class.
"This campus project provides an authentic application of students' learning to the immediate community. Furthermore, Mr. Wackerlin's leadership and partnership with Mrs. Stewart illustrates the fact that PCHS is a learning community. No matter the role of an individual in our school, we are a community of learners and teachers," Theisinger said.
"From teacher to paraprofessional, and administrator to custodian, we all have a responsibility to provide opportunities to students by engaging them in meaningful learning experiences. The fact the plants and landscaping will be aesthetically pleasing only enhances this community by providing a welcoming entrance to our school," he said.