The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

PHWS Projects 2012

Williamsport Elementary School, MD Rain Garden

Williamsport Butterfly Garden.



Williamsport Elementary School is a Maryland Certified Green School with a Green Club led by Teacher Heidi Strite.   On April 25th, 2012 Cacapon Institute helped 20 students plant a high visibility butterfly garden in the front of the school.  The club wanted to install a butterfly garden to contribute to biodiversity by attracting beneficial insects and birds.  The native plants are also an important factor in promoting biodiversity.  Native plants provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other desirable wildlife. Many help to enrich the soil. Their root systems help rainfall percolate into the soil, reducing erosion and runoff. This improves water quality.

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In the winter of 2012, Heidi and her class decided that they wanted to improve a 16 foot by 24 foot area around the school’s front sign. This butterfly garden beautified a previously bare area around the sign by filling it with native plants.
The class made their own compost to use for the planting.  Food waste and biodegradable trash generated by the class was placed in this bin with worms.  It was surprisingly effective and did not smell.  Heidi mentioned that the key to its scentless success was not using any citrus and burying any potentially smelly items deep in the bin. Before the planting, CI's Ben Alexandro educated the students on why native plants are so important to our watershed.  The students learned what the butterfly garden would do for native pollinators and why it was important to use native plants.  They learned about each native plant chosen and what type of insects and beneficial species that they would attract.  Throughout the spring, the students grew Blackeyed Susans from the seed. 
The students and their parents brought tools to help plant. The students arranged the wildflowers based on shade tolerance, height, color, etc.
Twenty students from grade 3-5 planted over 200 plants from 12 native species including the Blackeyed Susans that they grew themselves. Species planted included bee balm, boneset, wild columbine, butterfly weed, common milkweed, lance-leaved coreopsis, false dragonhead, joe-pye weed, wrinkle-leaf goldenrod, and common blue violet.
The students were sure to not plant anything that will grow too high in front of the school sign. As the students were planting, an impromptu opportunity for a lesson on complete metamorphosis arose when a student discovered a wiggling moth Pupae in the soil. 
The students were fascinated, but, at times, apprehensive. The planting was a big success.  CI hopes that this is the first of many Best Management Practices we will partner on at Williamsport Elementary School.