Seeds, Science and Stewardship — How Forest Park Forever-Provided “Grow Stations” Are Educating Local Students
Forest Park Forever is working to sow seeds all over the St. Louis Metro area, not just within the boundaries of Forest Park. Thanks to a generous grant from Boeing, native wildflowers, grasses, veggies and butterflies are more abundant all over the region.
As part of our strategic education programming, we are collaborating with St. Louis area schools to engage students in restoration activities through hands-on experiential conservation education. In addition to enriching the curriculum already established in classrooms, Forest Park Forever provided 10 “grow stations” to several schools in 2015. These stations have proven to be a valuable learning tool in students’ understanding of science and their sense of stewardship.
With this new resource, students have been growing native Missouri plants provided by Forest Park Forever. Growing plants in the classroom allowed students to do a live, real-time genetics study and analyze the results. One school has been researching various grasses to determine which best remove lead. Another class grew veggie seedlings that were later planted in a school garden. The fruits (and vegetables) of their labor were sold at the local farmers’ market to raise money for additional school projects. Students also grew Missouri wildflowers to naturalize areas of their school and create a butterfly garden.
This type of educational programming is adaptable and mobile, functioning both as in-school education as well as experiential learning in Forest Park. In addition to making an impact at their school sites, some of the projects are coming full circle and returning to Forest Park to help restore the Forest Park Nature Reserve and the wildlife habitat it supports. Forest Park Forever aims to use these opportunities to inform students, teachers and volunteers about the wide range of conservation and environment-oriented job opportunities, especially as they pertain to Forest Park and St. Louis.
Jean Turney is Forest Park Forever's education coordinator.