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ACGC students are building a butterfly garden

Tyler Johnson, left, and Kolt Soine secure one of the five butterfly houses that are being installed in a butterfly garden that was created this summer by ACGC students. The garden will serve as an outdoor classroom at the Junior-Senior High School in Grove City. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

GROVE CITY -- Operating on the cinematic theory that if you build it they will come, students and staff at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District have spent the summer making a butterfly garden.

And really, with the scents and colors of asters, prairie smoke, pasque, gailardia, oxeye daisy, allium, milk weed and other native plants like cone flowers all planted in one spot and interspersed with hand-painted butterfly houses -- how could a butterfly resist?

Throughout the summer, about 30 students from ACGC's Century 21 program have spent hours at the Junior-Senior High School in Grove City turning a piece of the school yard into a haven for butterflies.

On Thursday, students spent about five hours watering plants and hauling tubs full of wood chips to form a path through the garden and started installing the butterfly houses they painted earlier in the year.

Handmade stepping stones and water dishes they made by pressing large leaves into wet concrete will be added later, along with large boulders representing different types of Minnesota rock. A piece of limestone with a large fossil of a prehistoric squid has already found a place in the garden.

"It's coming along" said Monica Zieske, who's coordinating the project, as she looked over the garden.

Although the new plantings are a bit scraggly looking now, with the students' continual care the garden should be flourishing in a year or two and be home to a variety of Minnesota butterflies, like monarchs and swallowtails. Besides attracting butterflies, the garden will also attract kids.

The garden will be used as an outdoor classroom for science classes, said Bonnie Jans, who teaches eighth- and ninth-grade science at ACGC.

Students will be able to watch the life cycle of butterflies and moths in the garden and will likely capture some caterpillars for indoor classroom observation.

The garden will enrich student curriculum on native plant science and the boulders will be text books on igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock, said Jans, who predicts the garden will be a popular classroom in the fall and spring.

The science department has always wanted an outdoor classroom, said ACGC science teacher Tami Bennett-Tait, who came up with the idea of developing a butterfly garden at the school.

Funded through the 21st Century Grant and private and business donations, the butterfly garden has been an exciting student enrichment program that the students "could feel proud of," said Zieske, who is ACGC's 21st Century Grant coordinator.

The students designed the garden, researched what kind of plants would attract butterflies and went with staff to purchase the plants. The job also included leveling the ground for the garden, digging out rocks and planting the more than 20 different varieties of perennials, along with a handful of annual flowers.

"Some of the kids have never planted anything, so they got to see it from start to finish," said Zieske.

The next step is to "keep it alive," said Jans.

At the end of their workday on Thursday, the group watched a solitary butterfly hover briefly near like garden. The sighting gave the participants hope that the butterflies will indeed come.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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