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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Pollinator garden blossoms at LCCC

By Leanne Recla

Thanks to Lehigh Carbon Community College’s STEM club, students now have a 9,000-square-foot pollinator garden that can be used for lab work and ongoing experiments.

The project – which involved researching, purchasing and planting native species – started as a proposal for only about 250 to 500 square feet of garden space. But the project expanded into a garden of 9,000 square feet, with the potential to grow even more.

“It involved students every step of the way – planning, implementation, maintenance. It can be part of classes – it can be implemented across the curriculum,” says John Loughman, an associate professor who teaches environmental science.


Securing the funding

The project originated with LCCC’s STEM club, whose members were looking for a project that would engage the community and help the local environment.

“We were thinking that we should be able to do something to help (the environment). The STEM club didn’t have that many projects, so we thought about small gardens,” says STEM club member Alexandra Gallagher, who graduated from LCCC in May 2017 and is transferring to East Stroudsburg University to study environmental science and biology.

In fall 2016, the club brought the project to the attention of LCCC’s newly formed Sustainability Committee, which is focused on making the campus more environmentally friendly. The original proposal was to do small, boxed gardens around some of the trees on campus, but the effort expanded into planting two 4,500-square-foot sections of the college’s tiered Parking Lot A.

“To show that it can be sustained beyond the original project, it needed a committee to oversee it. But it involved students at every step,” says John Hefner, an associate professor at LCCC and a Sustainability Committee member.

Thanks to the Sustainability Committee’s backing, the STEM club was able to secure funding for the garden project.

“The minute we found out the proposal was accepted, all these students said, ‘We want to help.’ There was so much interest just through word of mouth and Facebook,” Gallagher said.


Choosing the right plants

With the funding in hand, the STEM club students set to work planning the garden – and determining what to plant in it.

“We wanted not only plants that would do well in this area, but also with each other,” Gallagher said.

The students worked with Edge of the Woods nursery in Orefield, along with Loughman and Hefner, to determine the best plants for the garden.

“If we plant a bush that supports one insect, it might look great, but it doesn’t help the birds. But if we plant something that supports lots of types of insects, that supports the birds because that’s what they feed their young,” says Loughman, who is also a member of the college’s Sustainability Committee.

The team ultimately purchased more than 2,000 small plants for the garden and also planted thousands of seeds, some donated from LCCC staff and faculty’s personal gardens.

The planting took place over a four-day period in late April. The first day was an educational presentation and planning session, followed by three days devoted to planting. Volunteers from across the campus community – students, faculty and staff – joined in the effort.

“We’re excited to be a part of this project. We’ll be able to watch the garden grow and mature and be proud that we were involved in this,” says Stacey Betz, director of student accounts.

Even with all the plants and seeds, the students only spent about half of their budget, so the group has plans to do a second planting during the fall semester. By then, the environmental science students will have the pollinator garden as part of their curriculum.

“In essence, we can start from a blank slate and track how plants move, what becomes the dominant species, etc.” Hefner says. “The garden can be a part of students’ ongoing lab work for years.”