Nature awaits Calera Elementary students

Published 4:41 pm Monday, August 23, 2010

Students help Shawn Farrell-Ryan, CES physical education teacher, care for the school’s butterfly garden.

It seems just yesterday “School’s out!” rang through the hallways, but the 2010 fall semester has begun.

Calera Elementary School students will find the butterfly garden, planted last spring, in full bloom and full of nature’s creatures. Hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees and other various insects have enjoyed the garden during the summer break.

Believing children today have a nature deficit, physical education teacher Shawn Farrell-Ryan brought nature to them.

“Kids are missing out on the great outdoors,” Ryan said. “Parents don’t have time to plant flowers, go for walks or visit state parks. If students aren’t exposed to nature, how will they have the knowledge and experiences needed to share nature with their children?”

With help from Jason Powell of Petals of the Past, Dunn Construction, Westwood Baptist Church and special friend Jody Miller, a butterfly garden with walking paths and a reading bench was constructed.

Students dug holes for plants and carried rocks for landscaping. Girl Scout Troop 4901 helped plant a tree.

“We chose host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies and hummingbirds. The plants chosen give color year round.” Ryan said. “There are over 130 plants in the garden.”

Salvia, lantana, heather, black-eyed Susan, cosmos, spirea, lamb’s ear, joe pye weed and butterfly bushes were planted, along with several herbs—catnip, parsley, pineapple sage, rosemary and fennel. Two crepe myrtle trees will add shade.

Ryan is especially thankful for Jody Miller. She not only helped with the garden, she talked with students about cancer prevention. A cancer survivor, Miller understands the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Students were motivated to raise more than $2,000 for the Relay For Life fundraiser in May.

Principal Linda Chesler is delighted with the garden and spoke excitedly about the new school year.

“I was on a leave of absence last year, so it’s like my first day seven years ago”, she said.

While on leave, the faculty and students worked hard to make Chesler proud. The school made AYP in all areas and subgroups this year.

“Reading proficiency was 87 percent — an 8 percent increase from last year,” Chesler bragged. “In math, 88 percent of our students were proficient, an unbelievable 23 percent increase!”

Chesler credits the commitment of teachers, students and parents to excellence in education for the school’s success.

Chesler and Ryan encourage grandparents to eat lunch with students Sept. 13, 14 and 15 and take the opportunity to view the butterfly garden.

Mollie Brown can be reached at