Silver Bay school restores area pollinator garden
“How much work they put into even just making a teaspoon of honey is a big process.”
Christina Kaiser’s gaining a new respect for food. The eighth grader is enrolled in the Agriculture/Food/Natural Resources class at Silver Bay’s William Kelley High School, where she’s learning about pollinators and their effect on, well, everything.
If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t have a lot of the flowers, fruits or vegetables we have now, said the 13-year-old. And: “How much work they put into even just making a teaspoon of honey is a big process.”
Kaiser recently applied what she’s learning to real life. She and other William Kelley students recently put the finishing touches on the school’s newly installed pollinator garden.
It’s replacing the school’s first garden — installed via efforts of former student Gunnar Frahm and lost due to construction following a 2019 water main break.
Thanks to the efforts of William Kelley art teacher Lisa Malcomb, the school received $10,000 from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation for the project, which was a straightforward and surprising process, she said.
After noticing the empty patch of land where the garden used to be, Malcomb got the go-ahead from Principal Joe Nicklay to seek funding.
She reached out to the school’s alumni association and The Silver Bay grant program, which pointed her in the direction of the biodiversity fund through the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.
Malcomb got a quote from Shoreview Natives on the project for about $3-$4 a foot of planting space.
She submitted a request for a $5,000 grant to the foundation, along with a map of the proposed garden space.
“They contacted me midwinter asking for more clarification. In my mind, it sounded like they were going to say ‘no,’” Malcomb recalled.
“At some point at the end of April, I got an email saying they had approved us, not for the $5,000 I asked for, but for $10,000.”
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Malcomb wanted this project to honor Frahm’s original work and establish an official pollinator garden in Silver Bay, she said.
Nicklay said a project like this is a no-brainer.
“One, it’s no maintenance. Two, it’s great for the environment. Three, in the educational setting for our kids, it seemed like the right thing to do.
“And besides, they’re pretty,” he said.
William Kelley also already has a vegetable garden and a pizza oven. Their cooking class uses both in the form of Tuesday pizza sales during summer.
This along with the pollinator garden offer “lifelong skills we’re trying to teach kids,” he said.
Planting began on July 8 with spreading and tilling compost, laying the fabric, mulching and some planting. The school worked with Shoreview Natives, a Two Harbors-based garden-installation service specializing in native species.
About 100 plants went into the ground thanks to William Kelley staff, and when school started, those plants had grown 2 feet high.
“There was an example garden for the kids to look at and Dan (Schutte of Shoreview Natives) could point out different plants and pollinators attracted to those plants,” said Malcomb.
Then, on Sept. 9, the school scheduled different classes grades 5-12 to help plant.
Shoreview laid out where to place each variety. Students received a demo and at the end of the day, they’d all planted nearly 2,300 irises, sunflowers and more.
Also: some plants from the original garden made it in, thanks to teacher Leilani Peterson.
As flowers return in the spring, they’ll have the chance to see the fruits of their labor, and by this time next year, the plants will be 5-10 feet tall, Malcomb said, adding:
“We’re really excited to have it and we think it’s going to be a great benefit to the community and students.”
Reflecting on planting day and the garden, Kaiser said she’s looking forward to making bread and jelly in her Agriculture/Food/Natural Resources class, and thinking about how pollinators contribute to the final product.
She also feels positive about her contribution.
“Having a garden like this means my school can help with the declining pollinators and that we can at least make one step toward a better Earth, even if it’s a small one,” she said.
The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation’s biodiversity fund aims to preserve the environment and promote education.
Grants range from $1,000 to $10,000. In the past, the foundation has issued more than $162,000 over the past 10 years, said Michelle Morris, Community Impact Director, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.
Past biodiversity fund support has gone to protecting and restoring manoomin (wild rice) beds within the Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs complex; water quality monitoring for the Superior Rivers Watershed Association; and breeding bird atlas efforts with The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.