Ecology interns design, plant pollinator garden

"Look at this! We did a tree!"

Haley Maharry, left, and Asia work together to help plan a pollinator garden at the Homewood Science Center on June 8. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
  Haley Maharry, left, and Asia
  work together to help plant a
  pollinator garden at the
  Homewood Science Center on
  June 8.
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
 

Four members of the Homewood Science Center's Conservation Ecology Internship Program were proud of their handiwork on June 8. When they were told the tree they planted was an ironwood, they quickly named it "Tony" in reference to Tony Stark, the alter ego of Avengers superhero Ironman.

The Tony tree is now part of a pollinator garden that consists of native plants, all organized and installed by the dozen middle-schoolers participating in the spring ecology program. 

The students came from Homewood, Flossmoor, Markham, Chicago, Chicago Heights and South Holland. They will share what they learned from their project at the science center's next PopUp Science session called Go Green! from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. 

Members of the Homewood Science Center's conservation ecology internship plant an ironwood tree they dubbed "Tony" in honor of Tony Stark, aka Ironman in the Avengers comics and movies. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
  Members of the Homewood
  Science Center's conservation
  ecology internship plant an
  ironwood tree they dubbed
  "Tony" in honor of Tony Stark,
  aka Ironman in the Avengers
  comics and movies.
 
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
 


Although the interns enjoyed digging in the dirt and bringing their garden to life, they put in a good deal of work leading up to planting day, according to Patricia Messersmith, a member of the HSC board of directors and senior educator at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

"The program is all student-led," Messersmith said. "The whole point of this is to learn science and this is a vehicle."

Messersmith said the students studied pollinator insects, the creatures essential for the reproduction of many plant species. Students learned about pollinators' important role in nature, and what improving plant biodiversity at the center can do to help these critters.

After their lesson, students came up with the idea of developing a pollinator garden. They researched native plants and created the garden design, taking into account what they learned about the plants' needs for survival and success. 

For example, the garden is located on sloping ground. The students decided to put plants that are more drought-tolerant near the top of the garden and those that require more water near the bottom.

The students also received guidance from local experts, including Homewood arborist Bryon Doerr and master gardener Sue McCarthy. 

At their PopUp Science presentation on Saturday, the students will be joined by representatives of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Homewood Disposal.

The ecology project for the fall 2018 session focused on identifying and removing invasive species of plants from Izaak Walton Nature Preserve in Homewood. Messersmith said the plan is to alternate between Izaak Walton and the science center for the hands-on portion of the program.

More information:
www.homewoodsciencecenter.org
 

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