YEEP END-OF-SUMMER 2019
What an incredible summer we have had here at Meadowscaping! Our Youth Environmental Entrepreneurship Program (YEEP) has come to a close, and we are so sad to see our students go. We were lucky enough to lead three programs including a Cambridge program with 12 participants, a Newton program with 4 participants, and a Belmont program that was based in Waltham and featured 10 participants from Belmont and one from the downtown Boston area. We also welcomed three college mentors this summer who helped out with anything from curriculum development to designing a client’s backyard and mulching the gardens. Below is a short list of some of our favorite memories from the summer, however, it really is difficult to compile highlights because we were able to experience so many unique things, visit some incredible sites, and talk to countless inspiring people!
We were able to get a lot done this summer! Of course, one of the highlights for us was teaching the curriculum and sharing some fun educational games with the students. It was great to see how excited the Cambridge students would get when we mentioned playing “Go Fern.” We also were able to expose our students to breathtaking community outdoor areas such as the Habitat Education Center and Mount Auburn Cemetery. Unfortunately, our Newton students weren’t able to explore their community as much because the project at their site in Kennard Park was completely infested with bittersweet, thus they spent a large part of their summer rehabilitating that area and completely transforming it into a beautiful native plant garden.
The Cambridge and Belmont students also helped fight against invasives by removing Japanese knotweed, black swallow-wort, and bittersweet from various locations. Both programs also volunteered to complete projects at community areas such as McDevitt Middle School in Waltham and the First Baptist Church in Central Square. However, one of the most rewarding parts of the summer for the students and us was the native plant sales that we hosted in Waltham and Cambridge. We had two of the most successful plant sales that this program has ever seen! We can’t thank our supporters enough for coming out to meet the students and buy native plants. These sales provided our students with the opportunity to share their newly acquired knowledge with residents of the community and implement the business component of this program. For a more detailed description of our summer be sure to read our posts from all three of the sites!
This summer was a great experience, and we couldn’t be more grateful for our time with the students. In saying this, we do acknowledge that there are always things that can be improved. For next year, we’re hoping to fine-tune the planning process and ensure that we secure a landscaping project with a client and hold a plant sale for each program! We also think it’d be great to increase our staff in the spring to help plan for the summer! [Maybe get a local college student to intern for a few hours during the spring semester] We’re pleased with the direction that YEEP is headed, and we can’t wait to take you on this journey with us! Stay tuned by following us on our new, student created instagram @yeep_ma. We’ll see you next year.
Our Summer in Waltham
Despite a bit of a rocky pre-program period and having to delay our start by one week, our Belmont program, including 10 Belmont students and 1 Boston student, was a soaring success this year! While initially we hoped to be based in Rock Meadow in Belmont, thanks to the generosity of the folks at the UU Church, we ended up basing our program in the First Parish Church in Waltham. This ended up being a blessing in disguise for us! The location allowed us to rehabilitate a native plant garden that we installed in front of the church last year (pic left). We were also able to go right across the street to McDevitt Middle School and do some weeding and installing of native plants in two abandoned planter boxes in front of the building.
Additionally, in between our curriculum on native plants; pollinators; marketing, finance and operations of running a business; eco-heroes; and climate change we were able to get out and explore the community. Early on in the summer we toured Mt. Auburn Cemetery with Jerry Mendenhall and saw the thriving native plant meadows on the property. On the right there is a picture of a few of our students at the top of the tour on the grounds with the Boston skyline behind them!
We also had a tour of the Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary with the director of the center, Roger Wrubel (pictured below) and helped remove the nasty invasive, Japanese knotweed while we were on the property.
Our fight against invasives continued a few weeks later when we stopped at the Charles River Greenway in Waltham to remove more Japanese knotweed (it really is everywhere!) and bittersweet with Sonja Wadman from the Waltham Land Trust.
However, one of the biggest tasks we undertook with our Belmont students this summer was a project with a client. This job allowed our students to experience what it takes to work with a client in a landscaping job from start to finish- we had to create a design plan, have it approved, order plants, prep the site, deliver and manage the inventory, and finally install the plants all while maintaining communication with the client. In the end, all of our hard work paid off and we were able to transform the client’s backyard into a pollinator paradise with dozens of native plants!
In the last week of the program we worked hard to put together a native plant sale at the First Parish Church in Waltham. And thanks to all of our marketing and outreach, it ended up being the most successful plant sale that the Youth Environmental Entrepreneurship Program has ever had! We sold around 85 native plants! This experience allowed our students to share their knowledge with the community and spread the word about the importance of pollinator friendly plants. Below you can see a photo of our sale in full swing!
As always, we want to give a huge shoutout to everyone who contributed to making this summer such a great experience for both the students and the staff here at Meadowscaping for Biodiversity.
Summer in Cambridge
We have officially ended our summer session here in Cambridge and what a summer it has been! We were lucky enough to have 12 wonderful students from the Cambridge area working with us for the six weeks of the program. During this time we were able to complete different jobs in our local community, learn about the importance of native plants, have a super successful plant sale (thank you everyone who came to support!) and play enough “Go Fern” (our native plant version of Go Fish) to last a lifetime! Below is a compilation of some of our favorite moments from the summer.
We started the summer off strong by rehabilitating three planter boxes that we started working on last year at Jerry’s Pond. On the right you can see the before and after photos of one planter that prove how much work our students put in to this project!
A few other jobs that we did this summer include; planting 50 ferns for the city; pulling out 5ft weeds from in front of the First Baptist Church in Central Square; and removing hundreds of Black Swallow-wort pods from the area around Fresh Pond!
Aside from these work projects, we also were lucky enough to go on some fun field trips! We started off the summer by visiting City Hall and talking with [Insert name of rep] about his work on climate readiness. We also visited Mt. Auburn Cemetery, the Museum of Fine Arts, and we got to release monarchs at both Fresh Pond and the Fenway Victory Gardens.
Additionally, in between our projects and curriculum on business management, climate change, eco-heroes, native plants, etc. we had some great guests come chat with us-- Steve Nutter came and talked about his role with Green Cambridge and Jane Hirschi talked about her organization CitySprouts.
The summer came to a close when we held our native plant sale on August 7th right by our flourishing demo garden at Reservoir Church. We were able to educate customers about the importance of native plants and direct them to plants that would be ideal for their yard. This sale ended up being the most successful sale YEEP has ever had (until the Belmont sale beat our record just 1 week later)! This sale allowed our students to share their knowledge and understand how many people care about pollinators and native plants in this community. [Insert pic of sale]
Although the sale was definitely a highlight, one of our favorite memories from the whole summer was when one of our students sang our “Pollinator in a Pickle” rap at the MSYEP Summer Showcase and the whole crowd loved it! Check out our student run instagram @yeep_ma for a video of the performance and other photos from the summer! As always, we want to thank everyone who contributed to making this summer so successful and rewarding for us and the students. We’ll see you next summer, YEEP!
[Insert pic of students]
INCREASING OPEN SPACE FOR POLLINATORS
I'm always thinking about how to increase habitat for wildlife. Since so much land is already developed, or is going to be developed soon, the only way to increase open space is to adapt already developed land for our purpose. Walter Kitteridge mentioned that adding a double row of bushes to hilly areas would reduce the amount of pollution running off.
Great idea! I'm thinking of the steep grassy hillside along the Mass. Pike in Newton. What a waste of good land that could support hundreds of native trees, native shrubs, beautiful flowers and attendant good soil and birds and other creatures. The land would need little maintenance but would support biodiversity. How scary it must be to mow that area--even with high-tech mowing equipment.
MS4B is trying step-by-step to introduce complexity into formulaic thinking that a green lawn, a few token shrubs, and a few flowers lining the driveway are requisite landscaping for the American way of life. Indeed, many decision-makers are working from assumptions that were never appropriate for the land. We seek to explain resilience and that with appropriate landscaping, pollinators would return. Every sq. ft. of highway or bank parking lot or school yard planted with native plants would be helpful in rebuilding community resilience.
POLLINATORS IN A PICKLE WORKSHOP
When I started MEADOWSCAPING FOR BIODIVERSITY in 2013, I was hugely concerned about the environment, in general, and loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat, in particular. In the past year, I've become more well informed about pollinators, and, thus, more concerned about the fate of pollinators and the loss of food supply and habitat for humans and wildlife--from the tiniest microbes under the surface of the soil to bees and butterflies, whales, and elephants.
The problem with sharing this kind of information with the public is that people have a great deal invested in denying the facts--it doesn't matter the how badly inaction on the issues will affect them--people would rather complain and hang onto the semblance of a "sane" world.
Of course, the semblance of a sane world includes lots of people dying of cancer. The sane world also includes people keeping so busy with daily activities that they don't have time to read the ingredients on the cans and jars they buy for dinner. Most folks will do anything to raise funds for cancer research yet will refrain from stopping use of proven cancer-causing toxic chemicals on their lawns.
So, with the Meadowscaping program, we've found a way to reach out to those who are pretending good faith by offering creative, innovative, fun and engaging activities carefully interwoven with the facts.
At last year's Massachusetts Environmental Educators Society Conference (2016), our workshop was called "Pollinators in a Pickle!" We wanted to show educators how to teach students about climate change and other serious issues without depressing them into inaction--the present state most of their parents' minds. We started out with a rap that detailed why pollinators are in a pickle--and people need to take action to improve the terrible loss of pollinators.
We played a jeopardy-like game with the categories PLANTS, POLLINATORS, PEOPLE, AND ECO-HEROES. We played the pollinator relay game, and more. Attendees applauded us and learned why we need them to teach parents and their children about the critical issues that pollinators (and people) are facing today.
Plants can't move like animals; some self-pollinate, and others rely on pollinators to find them. After gathering pollen (for food) and nectar (for energy), pollinators move between plants, dropping pollen from one member of a species to another member of the same species.
The trouble now is that human development is ferociously limiting the amount of land available for plants to grow. Worse yet, the plants available are invasive plants or ornamental plants (i.e., NOT NATIVE), so that the offspring of native pollinators (for example, the larvae of native butterflies and moths) co-evolved with native plants and can't eat the leaves of non-native plants. And because of climate change, plants are blooming earlier, so that when the pollinators are ready for them, the pollen isn’t there. Thus, the bees and butterflies are starving. Bees are dying from neonicotinoids and other pesticides.
Monarch butterflies numbers are starting to increase after record lows. Milkweed plants are host plants for monarchs--actually the only plants for which monarch larvae (caterpillars) can eat. Midwest farmers have planted their fallow land in corn to take advantage of the biofuels booms. 93% of the Monarch population that takes the eastern migration route has died.
There is hope here too because large groups are working together either through direct joint efforts of through internet groups to solve some of the issues that are causing a shortening of our future on Earth.
So ask yourself, why buy plants or anything from Home Depot and many other big box stores that continue to sell plants treated with pesticides that kill pollinators, get into the soil, and kill the microbes that keep the soil healthy? Is the savings of a few cents or a few dollars more important than the future of the food supply?
Especially, think for yourself. DON'T BELIEVE TV OR INTERNET ADS. Consider why you need to buy Scotts' 3 in 1 or 5 in 1 killer systems for your lawn. Here's a secret Scotts doesn't want you to know: One of the Scotts systems kills off clover and the next one re-introduces nitrogen back into the soil. Another secret, Scotts is providing $1000 grants to schools to plant school gardens even though their MiracleGrow is an extremely dangerous product.
Your child could be working in the garden and also eating the food grown with pesticides. Here's another secret: YOU DON'T NEED PESTICIDES TO GROW A GREEN LAWN OR A GOOD CROP. READ UP ON ORGANIC PRODUCTS.
Among the only foods that don't require pollination are corn, wheat, and rice. Boring and unhealthy foods, these could make up a large part of your diet of the future, unless you take these issues seriously and fearlessly.