Pollination Education with FEAST at Vance Elementary School By Jordan Diamond, FEAST Garden Coordinator
On a warm, sunny afternoon in October, I sat on my front steps in full Monarch Butterfly regalia- homemade wings pinned to a polka dot shirt, black pants and shoes, and a headband with pipe cleaner antennae. Beside me, a real monarch butterfly fluttered about in a pop-up mesh habitat; the last butterfly to emerge for the season. To celebrate, I sang “Goin’ down to Mexico” before tagging and releasing the butterfly to a goldenrod plant in our garden while my housemates captured the scene on video so I could send it to the teachers at Vance Elementary School to share with their students.
Every fall, I raise monarch butterflies from caterpillars found on the milkweed growing in the Vance Elementary Peace Garden. Every class helps look for caterpillars and follows their magical metamorphosis, all the way until the climactic day when a butterfly is released into the garden. Each year, several grade levels participate in the Journey North Symbolic Migration, tracking the butterflies migration to Mexico and back. In the spring, the kindergartners celebrate their return with our own “Symbolic Migration”, traveling through different stations in the school imagining they are monarchs migrating. This fall, with school happening entirely online, I adapted these lessons and created weekly Monarch Update video lessons to send to teachers so they could still follow the season of metamorphosis with their classes.
In 2018, Asheville GreenWorks connected our school with Estela Romero, an environmental educator and conservationist from Angangueo, Mexico. Estela came to our school to share her story and knowledge about Monarch Butterflies during a special assembly. Every student in the school sat enraptured as she described walking amongst millions of monarch butterflies that spend winter in the mountain forest of Oyamel fir trees near her village. She taught us so much about the science and folklore surrounding these magical creatures and it was so special to have her visit.
Pollinator education is a key component in the FEAST program at Vance Elementary. FEAST is a program of Bountiful Cities and empowers youth and families to grow, prepare and enjoy fruits and vegetables through hands-on cooking and garden education. FEAST classes integrate all subject areas with real-life hands-on connections that foster healthy eating habits and a relationship with food and nature. The students are engaged in every piece of the garden, from turning the compost pile to building the garden beds, and from planting seeds to harvesting and cooking the fruits of their labors.
Bountiful Cities and FEAST maintain the garden with the support of the Vance Parent Team and the Garden Committee, a group of Vance parents and community members. Vance Elementary is the magnet school of Ecology, and the Vance Peace Garden and FEAST Program are a core component of the curriculum. Asheville GreenWorks has also been a key partner to our school by participating in numerous assemblies and school events, facilitating the start of a cafeteria composting program in 2013, and providing numerous resources from recycling and composting education to Tree ID lessons.
Asheville GreenWorks is a 501(c)3 non-profit environmental organization, governed by a Board of Directors. Established in 1973, GreenWorks mission is to inspire, equip and mobilize individuals and communities to take care of the places we love to live.