A dedicated group of Marietta girl scouts has been hatching plans for a specially designed butterfly garden at Marietta Middle School.
The project, which is being completely planned and built by the six freshmen and sophomore girls in Girl Scout Troop 424, is proving to be a great learning experience for the girls, said Troop Leader Laura Dye.
But the project will also provide an excellent hands-on learning experience for two middle school classes geared toward students with learning delays, said Deborah Kiefer, an intervention specialist for a class designed for students with multiple disabilities.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
From left, Marietta Middle School teacher Deborah Kiefer, along with member Tori Slonaker, leader Laura Dye and member Sarah Dennis, of Senior Girl Scout Troop 424, survey the a large grassy space behind the middle school, which is the future sight of a handicapped accessible butterfly learning lab to be planned and constructed by the troop.
"About three years ago, Mrs. (Elizabeth) Houck and I wanted to develop an outdoor garden through which students could learn life skills as well as cover all the academic subjects," said Kiefer.
However, Kiefer and Houck could not secure funding for the project and hit a dead end.
But the idea gained new life when Troop 424 was talking about community activities they might like to do for a Gold Award Project, the highest achievement a senior girl scout can achieve, said Dye.
About the project
Senior Girl Scout Troop 424 is planning and building a handicapped accessible butterfly learning lab at Marietta Middle School.
The lab will consist of six garden beds, each designed with plants that attract and nourish a specific species of butterfly throughout its life cycle.
Two of the six beds will have trays, making them easy to access by wheelchair, and two will have benches for seating.
The garden will also have two smaller beds for herbs.
The gardens will be open to everyone but are designed specifically to provide a hands-on learning opportunity for students with multiple disabilities or cognitive disorders.
"One of the girls in my troop, Megan Warner, is a twin. Her twin sister Jessica has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair," she said.
The group began talking about how much Jessica's teacher had wanted to create a handicapped accessible garden for students and decided it would be a perfect project.
The garden will consist of six larger butterfly beds and two smaller herb beds built on an open grassy space behind the middle school and overlooking the Frontier Shopping Center. Each of the six girls is responsible for one of the larger beds, explained Dye.
"Each of the six girls has researched a different type of butterfly and they've had to find out which plants will attract their butterfly," explained Dye.
The research process has been particularly fun, said troop member Sarah Dennis, a sophomore at Marietta High School.
"My butterfly has the cutest caterpillar ever. It looks like a tiny little sea creature," said Dennis, who researched the Painted Lady.
But, she added, butterflies are very high maintenance.
Fellow troop member Tori Slonaker, also a MHS sophomore, agreed that the process was a lot more laborious than it sounds.
"The babies need different plants than the adults and they lay their eggs somewhere else," explained Slonaker, who was responsible for researching the Melissa Blue.
Warner, the group's only freshman, will be researching the monarch. Also creating beds are sophomores Stephanie Dye for a Tiger Swallowtail, Marcy Huffman for a Zebra Swallowtail and Becca Immele for the Diana Fritillary.
The six butterfly beds will all be wheelchair height and easily accessible. Two will have trays attached to the side for even easier wheelchair access and another two will have benches for seating, said Laura Dye.
The girls have also been responsible for keeping research binders, complete with pictures and information about the butterfly and all the plants in their bed, she said. The binders will be given to the school for future use, said Laura.
The learning opportunities for the gardens are endless, said Kiefer.
"For math, we might measure the length of the lumber. In science, we can learn about biomes and habitats that support the life. An art teacher might take a class out for inspiration," she said.
The project will also be a good lesson in responsibility and ongoing commitment, said Kiefer. Her class as well as Houck's will be responsible for maintaining the site throughout the school year, she said.
The girls will start physically building the gardens on Saturday, and will largely be responsible for that work as well, said Laura Dye. That is why she has asked multiple carpenters to assist the girls.
"They can work one-on-one with each girl and help teach them what to do. But this is the Gold Award the girls are earning, so I told them they can encourage and support, but they should make the girls do it," she said.
The scouts will then paint and line the beds March 27 and 28, fill the beds with dirt and soil in April and plant their chosen flowers in May, said Laura.
The last step is what Dennis is most looking forward to, she said.
"I love planting flowers and seeing all the colors when they've bloomed," she said.
And Slonaker said she is excited to present the project to Kiefer and Houck's classes.
"I just want to see the kids and their reactions," she said.