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Students in Sustainability 101 Course Celebrate the “Flowers of their Labor”—a Pollinator Garden

Posted May 5, 2011


The meridian, surrounded by curbing in the parking lot behind 14 and 20 Valley Road, appeared to be rocky and barren—an unlikely place to grow flowers. But that’s exactly what students in the inaugural Sustainability 101 class did, planting a pollinator garden designed to attract butterflies, bees, other flying insects, and hummingbirds. Thanks in part to a grant from the Alumni Association, along with much hard work and cooperation, the garden became a reality. Read the report that the class produced.

On May 5, the students met in Emerson 207 for a celebration of the creation of the pollinator garden, and they were joined by their professor, Associate Professor of Sociology Michaela Simpson, President Anthony S. Caprio, Director of Institutional Research and Planning Richard Wagner, and Director of Alumni Relations Kathy Pappas G’98. Pictured are, back row, (L-R) Ian Mulcahy, Jeffrey Palma, Wagner, President Caprio, Simpson, Jaynie Mueller, Anthony Medina, Lisa Burton, Nick Tougas, Roland Murdock, Vincent Weyel, John Arvanitis, Tyler Gerhardson, and Pappas.

The garden grew out of Simpson’s desire for a project that would allow students to work together as a community of learners and apply the concepts of sustainability in a practical way. The students learned the important role that flying insects play in the pollination of plants, which is crucial for ecosystem sustainability. The class agreed that the garden site would provide a much-needed insertion of greenery into an asphalt strip at Western New England, “and as the garden begins to flourish, it will provide a beacon of sustainability for the rest of the campus,” said student John Arvanitis.

But there was a problem: planting on the heels of one of Springfield’s snowiest winters ever. The snow came with a vengeance in January and February, and the persistent white stuff even fell as late as April 1. “It seemed like it would never cease,” said Simpson. “There was real fear—would the snow piled on the meridian melt in time for planting?” said Simpson. “Would the soil merely be mud?”

Fortunately, the soil was fine on the planting days of April 16 and 17, when students traveled to Simpson’s house in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood and collected plants—some of them waiting in pots, and other dug up from her own garden. The pollination garden, measuring 9 ½-by-65 feet, consists of 17 species of flowers, including daffodils, Goldstorm Coneflowers, and David’s Lavendar flowers.

Student Lisa Covert points out that pollinator gardens not only strengthen biodiversity, but also provide psychological benefits in both urban and suburban neighborhoods. Students, “as well as residents in the area, including neighbors on Valley Road, and walkers or joggers passing by, can enjoy the garden and intake the natural beauty” of the plants.

For more on Western New England pollinator garden (pictured below), as well as the importance of pollinating animals—and information on the best plants, seeds, and soil for building your own pollinator garden, download the report from the Sustainability 101 course.



Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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