Corl Street Elementary School students dig into pollinator garden

Students respond to a question from Master Gardeners Sally McMurry and Pam Ford.
Students respond to a question from Master Gardeners Sally McMurry and Pam Ford. CDT photo

You might see bugs like aphids crawling on some plants, or weeds growing in gardens.

But some fifth-grade students at Corl Street Elementary School said some of those allegedly unwanted nuisances can actually be a good thing.

Other insects like ladybugs eat aphids, and weeds can help attract bugs that are part of the pollination process.

Last year, fifth-graders teamed up with Penn State master gardeners Sally McMurry and Pam Ford to create a satellite pollinator garden at the school.

It was planted behind the building adjacent to the playground, and surrounds a tree and memorial plaque in memory of teacher Diane Cronemiller who died in 2001.

This year, Steven Calderone and Kate Hooper’s fifth-grade classes are carrying out garden responsibilities.

“It’s letting them be interactive and hands-on with the garden that ties into class like the study of ecosystems,” Hooper said.

On Thursday afternoon, the classes held an official dedication for the garden that recognized school and community efforts to make the garden possible.

As students Sofia Aeschbacher, Jack Bechtel, Quiana Guo and Cooper Price walked around the garden, they identified plants and specified their purposes. They said they’ve worked with their peers since the beginning of September to take care of it.

They also said they learned about the importance of pollinator gardens and native species, and the relationship between plants and pollinators; and then presented their findings to younger classes who will help maintain the garden when they’re in fifth grade.

“The main message is that the purpose of a pollinator garden is to benefit wildlife and pollinator insects that help in the cycle of life,” Jack, 10, said. “We see things like bees that use nectar from flowers to make honey that we eventually eat.”

And, though Hooper said “hundreds” of insects call the garden home, students said the most popular ones they see are bees.

In the spring, the classes will plant new plants and make plaques that identify each plant that includes blue mist flowers, black-eyed Susans, golden Alexanders, purple coneflowers, swamp milkweed, New England aster, Virginia mountain-mint, golden ragwort, anise hyssop, lanceleaf coreopsis and more, Hooper said.

“It gives them a sense of ownership when they’re responsible for maintaining the garden and physically being a part of it, and pay it forward to the community we live (in),” Hooper said. “So much of what we do is based on community service and our relationship to the community.”

As part of State College Area High School student Nicolaas Van Der Sluys’ Eagle Scout project, he’s making seats resembling mushrooms to add to the garden.