Spring is a time when all gardeners finally get to get their hands back into the dirt.
It was no exception for a band of volunteers, including students, parents and teachers who dug, mulched and prepared plots at Riderwood Elementary School on Sunday, April 14.
The two new garden spaces, a native garden named Kinder Garden and a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, are part of the Towson school's efforts to become a Green School, with the assistance of its community partner, Cromwell Valley Park.
To that end, the school has been promoting environmental stewardship by the entire school community, and in addition to restoring the school yard to a natural habitat, they have established projects to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills and improve recycling at the school.
A neglected overgrown courtyard that is being transformed into Kinder Garden, including a nature trail of native plants including button bush, spicebush, Christmas fern, black-eyed susan, witchhazel and little bluestem, which attract hummingbirds and other birds, insects and butterflies, according to Anne Wedgeworth, a parent of Riderwood students and a master naturalist.
By creating a Monarch Waystation, Riderwood is helping to sustain the life cycle of monarch butterflies.
"Monarch caterpillars are the original picky eaters," Wedgeworth wrote in an email. "They will only eat milkweed but it is becoming more scarce. ... By planting milkweed on which the butterflies lay their eggs, and surrounding it with nectar plants for the adult butterflies, the students will have the opportunity to witness the entire butterfly life cycle first hand, knowing that they were responsible for providing its habitat."
The Green School effort is part of the daily routine at Riderwood. Environmental vocabulary words, like "upcycle" and "compost," are highlighted on the morning announcements, as are environmental activities. Recycled materials are routinely used for projects in art class. Riderwood's Girl Scout troops actively learn about the environment by participating in special wildlife programs at Cromwell Valley Park. And the school's award-winning Destination Imagination Club is spreading the message: it's theme this year is "The Earth is Our Mother — Take Care of Her."
Riderwood will apply to become a certified Maryland Green School in the spring of 2014.