2019 Budding Botanist Winners

2019 Budding Botanist Winners
Thurston High School students

Klorane Botanical Foundation and KidsGardening are honored to announce the winners of the 2019 Budding Botanist grant program. The grants are awarded to school-based educational programs that teach students respect for the environment and the importance of protecting nature through the preservation of plant species and biodiversity. Each winner will receive an award package valued at $3,000 to create new gardens or expand existing gardens. Through the Budding Botanist grant program, we hope to inspire our youngest citizens to value and protect their local ecosystems. This year’s winners are:

Inez Elementary School - Albuquerque, New Mexico

“We want to foster a love and appreciation for our high desert environment as well as show students the bounty that is possible when planting is in harmony with our region,” shares parent Rebecca Brinkerhoff.  Using native plants and vegetable and fruits seeds from surrounding pueblos, along with traditional building techniques of the region such as adobe and rammed earth berms, Inez Elementary School has designed a landscape plan to demonstrate xeriscape principles, including water retention techniques and erosion management.  “Planting of high-water requirement plants or planting in ways that do not conserve water can be not only impractical, but potentially irresponsible depending on the rainfall each year,” notes Brinkerhoff. “Sustainability, appreciation for the beauty and depth of our arid environment, and respect for our traditional and pueblo community knowledge is what this program is all about.”

Thurston High School - Redford, Michigan

Thurston High School’s AP Environmental Science class is spearheading the installation of a rain garden aimed at increasing biodiversity and watershed health, while also combating invasive species.  Their garden will not only serve as a hands-on learning lab for high school students, but willalso be  a space where elementary and middle schools classes within the school district can come to learn and explore.

“The garden will be used as a learning lab that provides hands-on and realistic experiences with our local environment,” explains student Sara Borsodi. “The rain garden provides an opportunity to take skills learned in the classroom and apply them to a real life scenario. It is often hard to do this in classes such as AP Environmental Science because the course focuses on such large concepts. However, the rain garden embodies many educational factors focused on sustainability and biodiversity that relate to our local runoff and watershed. While working on the garden, students are educating themselves on how various elements of the environment interact and affect each other. They can take this critical thinking and apply it to our rain garden by deciding what plant species they need to plant in order to attract certain insects, birds, and small mammals that increase biodiversity and sustainability.”

Spring Hill Elementary School - Knoxville, Tennessee

Spring Hill Elementary School will be creating a certified wildlife habitat featuring entirely native species. With the help of a local wildlife habitat program, the space will not only promote plant and animal biodiversity, but also serve as a rich platform for community engagement. The entire garden has been planned to utilize only native species: sixteen trees, shrubs, and flowering plants that are native to the city of Knoxville and will serve as a haven for up to 169 species of birds, moths, butterflies, and caterpillars.

STEM Lab Teacher Amanda Callahan-Mims explains that there will be “an abundance of fruiting and flowering trees/shrubs, and herbaceous plants to provide nectar, pollen, fruit, and seeds for animals and insects over the seasons as our indigenous flora allows. The shrubs double as shelter and nesting sites for both birds and insects. There will also be a bird bath for regular  access to water.” The garden will also be home to two original sculptures, including a large butterfly and a small Spring Hill Bear (the school’s mascot).  The garden will showcase for the community how using native plants can create a functional and beautiful environment.

R.M. Miano Elementary School - Los Banos, California

“Seventeen years ago, we began with a simple idea,” begins Sergio de Alba, Miano Elementary School’s Garden Program Coordinator. “We wanted to beautify the empty dirt plots on our campus and provide an avenue to inquiry-based lessons about the environment. As our idea grew, we wanted to do more with our program. Creating something that was not only beautiful, but also functional for our students, something that could be used to better their education and provide an avenue to improve environmental education, our test scores, and the nutrition of our students. Our 13 gardens have indeed created a more beautiful school. This beauty has positively changed the school culture and the way our students see learning as well as the world around them. The gardens have become engaging opportunities that change their outlook in life as well as what they feel their future holds. Our students are no longer just the children of farm workers, but stewards of the land that they work and the future scientists that will ensure that our environment and land is respected.  Our gardens are not just gardens. Our gardens are an avenue to achieving lofty dreams while still maintaining our roots and love for the land and what it provides.”

With their Budding Botanist Grant, Miano Elementary will add a student-designed carnivorous plant garden to their schoolyard.  This new garden will expand on their extensive existing gardens spaces, each of which highlights a different ecosystem and biome. These gardens serve not only as a setting for classroom exploration and learning, but also as an environment in which elementary and middle school students can engage in meaningful peer-to-peer mentoring.

The Renaissance Charter School - Jackson Heights (Queens), New York

The Renaissance Charter School will be installing new garden beds, planters, and a vertical garden system that will augment their rooftop growing space. This year-round garden program is used as part of an agriculture-based curriculum for high school students, a student-driven permaculture leadership program, and for food education classes. It is supported by multiple local community partnerships.

The school will use this new growing space in a number of ways, including expanding the amount of fruits and vegetables they are able to produce. “Using our own locally grown food to supplement our cafeteria salad bar is a great way to put learning into practice,” shares Development Associate Peggy Heeney. “If we teach children the benefit of buying and eating locally sourced food (not only is it fresher and therefore healthier, it is better for the environment as there is less transportation involved), but then we use pre-packed prepared food that is shipped from far away in the cafeteria, we are not teaching by doing.  We have just been accepted into a pilot program called FEAST (Food, Education, Access, Support, Together). Through this program we will be offering free nutrition and cooking classes to the community, as well as providing free and immediate access to fresh, whole foods through a food scholarship. It will be so exciting to be able to supplement these classes with fresh produce from our garden.” The new beds will also allow more students to use the space, and programming will expand to include elementary classes too.

Waltersville School - Bridgeport, Connecticut

Inspired by a hands-on learning activity exploring the impact of humans on their local ecosystem, Waltersville School plans to build upon their existing garden program and local natural areas by installing a pollinator habitat that includes pollinator-friendly native plants. Their proposed Monarch Butterfly Corridor will be integrated into the school’s project-based learning module and will serve as a springboard for student-led ecological stewardship within the wider community.

“Under the proposed plan, students will participate in citizen science reporting of their results,” shares science teacher John Cunningham. “ With increased resources and school-wide activities, it is hoped that students will take what they learn to make a difference in the community. Students will complement the at-school effort by planting milkweed at home to create a sustainable habitat for much needed pollinators in our dense, urban environment.”