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A Butterfly Garden for Silver Creek

Each year, the 6th grade classes at the Wood River Middle School--taught by Claudia Gaeddert and Ginger Rierden--pick a cause to support. This year, they wanted to benefit a special place in their backyard.

Sustainability is a part of the sixth grade curriculum at Wood River Middle School, and the students chose Silver Creek Preserve as their project. 

The Nature Conservancy is honored that the 6th graders chose our preserve for this year's cause. Inspired by a visit to the preserve, the students designed buttons illustrating the beauty of Silver Creek and their hopes for the future. The buttons were then sold to fund a new butterfly garden at the preserve's visitor center. In addition to the funds raised from the buttons, two private donors pitched in to help bring the project to life. The result: Nearly $5100 raised for Silver Creek!

This story perhaps begins before the students arrived, during a summer event at the preserve. Oregon State University and other partners hosted a biodiversity and farm tour that included Ernie's Organics owned by Fred and Judy Brossy along the Big Wood River, a stop at the preserve and a tour of the showcase barley farm owned by John and Elizabeth Stevenson.

The tour earned fantastic reviews, but more than that, it is one of those educational events that succeeded in getting people to think about conservation in new ways.

Conservationists at Silver Creek often think about trout, herons and moose. This tour brought alive the amazing world of pollinators and other beneficial insects.

And that's what the sixth graders focused on: They learned about the role insects play at the creek from preserve manager Dayna Gross and farmer Gary Beck. The idea of a butterfly garden was born.

"The students learned it wasn't just about the preserve," says Ms. Rierden. "They learned that conservation is about how we live here and work here and make money here, while still protecting a very special place."

And so the students got to work. They designed and sold buttons. They also created "The Power of Change," a drive to collect spare change undertaken by all students at Wood River Middle School.

"Eleven- and twelve-year-olds are game for anything," says Ms. Gaeddert. "I wish we could all stay twelve. They look at a challenge and think, 'Wow, we can do this!' There's some real magic that happens."

What an amazing, inspirational effort, and one that will result in more beneficial insects in the Silver Creek Valley. The garden can also inspire the thousands of visitors to our preserve to make their own efforts to benefit pollinators, butterflies and other beneficial insects. 

Thank you again to the sixth grade students, the teachers and all who bought buttons or gave spare change. You made a difference for a special place.  

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