International Baccalaureate students partner with city to create butterfly garden

IB students Pate Duncan, left, Adeline Lewis and Emily Chesser study the butterfly/pollinator garden they helped create as part of their CAS capstone project.

What started out as a small service project for three International Baccalaureate students at Carrollton High School has turned into a true partnership with the City of Carrollton that will provide years of pleasure for visitors to the Greenbelt and help the environment in the process.

The collaboration, initiated by IB seniors Adeline Lewis, Emily Chesser and Pate Duncan last school year, has produced a butterfly/pollinator garden at Laura’s Park on Hay’s Mill Road. Loved by butterflies and bees, the plot of perennials and annuals is colorful and bright, welcoming visitors to the park, a trailhead for the Carrollton Greenbelt walking/biking path.

Kent Johnston, superintendent of the city’s Parks and Facilities Maintenance Division, said the garden idea the students presented to the city was a great complement to his department’s efforts to improve parks with pollinator gardens to attract beneficial bees and butterflies.

“Our plans just morphed together to create this great feature for the park,” said Johnston, who also shared the city’s plans to expand the park’s garden to include more native plants and seating areas. The trailhead park is the site of the long-gone Hay’s Mill that operated on Buffalo Creek there for many years.

“It is one of the prettiest places in the city,” he said.

The IB students came up with the idea for their CAS capstone project about eight months ago, said Noah Brewer, coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at CHS. CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service.

“I am super impressed with this group and with this achievement,” said Brewer. “The kids carried it out almost completely independently and demonstrated amazing leadership at every level – doing independent research, soliciting funds, sending professional emails to members of the city government and other advocacy groups, arranging meetings with city officials, buying plants, and finally digging in the dirt.”

Brewer said several of the IB students are also using the pollinator garden as a springboard for their major internal assessment in IB Biology, where they will begin making measurements of the ecological impact of the garden.

Another project partner was the Spade and Trowel Garden Club which donated funds to help purchase plants for the garden. Members of the club joined city officials and the IB students Aug. 25 for a photo opportunity to commemorate the partnership.

“We really appreciate the city respecting our vision and giving our project serious consideration,” said Pate. “They could have just brushed us off but they didn’t. And the best part is the city will continue to take care of this project, enhance it. Many times a project like this would eventually go away once the students move on. I can’t wait to come back after college to see how it has grown.”

Emily agreed. “We feel lucky to be a part of something that matters.”

Adeline said the experience helped confirm her desire to become a landscape architect. “This is the kind of work I would love to do some day.”

Johnston commended his staff who worked with the students to bring the project to fruition, especially Carrie Burnette, horticulture supervisor, and Bart Williams, parks supervisor.

“We loved working with the students and experiencing their enthusiasm,” said Johnston. “Partnerships like this is what makes us a better community.”

On hand for a photo to commemorate a partnership that created this butterfly/pollinator garden are, from left: Bart Williams, Alex Powers and Carrie Burnette of the City of Carrollton Parks and Facilities Maintenance Division; Emily Chesser Adeline Lewis and Pate Duncan, CHS International Baccalaureate seniors; Nancy Tsipolitis, Susan Fleck, Teresa Gilsom and Idys Overton, Spade and Trowel Garden Club members; and standing behind them, Kent Johnston, the city Parks and Facilities Maintenance Division superintendent.