Students come to the aid of pollinators

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Pollinators are under threat, but they have an ally in the sixth-grade students of the Village School of North Bennington.

The students at the independent school this year created colorful posters encouraging the public to plant pollinator-friendly flowers. Those posters can now be seen at locations across Bennington and North Bennington.

"Don't be nature haters," one of the three posters declares. "Plant for pollinators!"

Started during the 2018-2019 school year with a focus on the different types of animal pollinators, the school's Pollinator Project continued this year with sixth-graders studying practices that could help pollinators survive, organizers said.

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Children "really want to have an impact," said Gabrielle Rynes, a teaching artist with the Vermont Arts Exchange who oversaw the 14 students working on the project. "They want to have a voice."

The students selected more than a dozen native plant species and, working from photographs, made drawings of them, Rynes said. They started working on layout designs before the pandemic-related school closure in March, which necessitated the project being completed remotely.

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Working from home, students conducted research and developed text meant to encourage people, when purchasing plants for their gardens, to choose species that support pollinators, Rynes said. Project participants also voted on different facets of the posters' designs.

Plants displayed on the final posters include blue wild indigo, lupine, penstemon, columbine, dahlia, milkweed and sunflower. Bees and hummingbirds are also depicted.

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Pollinators, "the vast majority" of which are bees in Vermont, are threatened by loss of habitat due to single-crop farming and development, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Most wild plants in Vermont depend on animals for pollination.

Pollinator Project posters are currently on display at Whitman's Feed Store, Clear Brook Farm and Spice N' Nice Natural Foods, Rynes said. They will also be displayed at the Hiland Hall Gardens, where students were slated to grow the plants featured in the posters before the pandemic curtailed that element of the project.

Sandra Magsamen, director of the nonprofit Friends of Hiland Hall Gardens, encouraged people walking along the Mile-Around Woods loop to check out the posters for themselves. "They're beautiful," she said.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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