BY STEPHANIE GROVES
OTTOVILLE - High school students in Susan Jones' Environmental Science class are moving forward with Land Lab plans working diligently on establishing naturalized prairie plots-an ongoing conservation effort-to attract Monarch butterflies.The outdoor lab is located on the west bank of the Little Auglaize River, approximately 150 yards to the left of the walkway which approaches the bridge to the park .
"Last year's class had the ideas and did some planning. They did the soil testing," Jones detailed. "The kids love it. They do research and helped with the grant writing."
This year Jones has been collaborating with the Industrial Arts class, who are working on constructing wooden bird houses to attract a variety of indigenous wild species for the class. The class hope to draw Finches and other native common birds.
Future plans for outdoor hands-on projects include building a dock off the bank of the river so that students can engage in Environment-based learning structured for Aquatic Ecology.
"We'd like to put duck boxes on the edge of the water," Jones said. "We'd also like to perform water quality testing."
Water quality test kits introduce students to different water quality parameters like biochemical oxygen demand, coliform bacteria, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, pH, phosphate, turbidity and temperature change.
"We earned a $200 grant through Wild Ones to purchase the seeds and have the potential to acquire another $100 more if we work on a naturalizing prairie for Monarchs," Jones reported.
In 2013, Jones' class was awarded the grant through Wild Ones Natural Landscaper's Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Grant Program, which supports students as they learn about native plants and the part they play in pollination and the water cycle.
Wild Ones Natural Landscapers promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve natural biodiversity. The project takes a lot of time, planning and collaboration with different departments and the school administration.
After the eight 9 foot by 9 foot plots are prepared-removal of sod and cultivating the soil-the students will plant one type of wildflower seed per plot to attract butterflies. Each plant will draw and promote a diverse ecosystem.
The class is comprised of four students, including: Kendra Eickholt, Marissa Pohlabel, Tim Feasel and Ali Eickholt. The students are very proactive and want to establish and preserve a naturalized space with biodiversity showing life progression in a learning atmosphere for everyone to enjoy-students as well as the general public. We want to establish community level appreciation for nature.
"I enjoy this class because it's hands-on rather than sitting in a classroom," Ali Eickholt said.
"One small area inspires others to do the same," Pohlabel said excitedly. "Get young kids involved in the environment and see the progress as it evolves."
At this time, the class has selected 7 types of wildflowers to grow including; Prairie Dock, a perennial herb with whitish flowers used by Catawba Indians to treat burns; Prairie Aster, a reseeding wildflower with blue/purple color and yellow centers; Butterfly Weed, a nectar source for butterflies with leaves as food source for Monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars); Black-Eyed Susans, a perennial plant that draw butterflies and songbirds as well as being deer and rabbit resistant; Yellow and Purple Coneflower, a perennial that draw bees and butterflies alike; Mountain Mint, a perennial that hosts various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles; and Milkweed, the host for monarch butterfly caterpillars - Monarch butterflies deposit their eggs on milkweed plants; once the caterpillars emerge, they eat the leaves.
Butterflies are classified as Lepidoptera, a large order of insects encompassing moths and the three super-families of butterflies with a life cycle consisting of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
For more information, please visit wildones.org