Stop and Smell the Milkweed: SJC’s new Pollinator Garden!

Since its founding, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine has been committed to education as a means for both personal and social transformation. As an institution sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, we seek to educate our students through classes and experiences that bring them face-to-face with a planet and people in need. A recent example of this type of education is reflected in Saint Joseph’s recent addition: The Pollinator Garden Project.

The garden began as an idea from SJC’s Community and Sustainability Engaged (CASE) Scholars when they researched the decline of pollinators in Maine for their presentation at the Terra Matters Climate Summit, held at USM in 2018. With donations, multiple grants, a group of fourth graders from Riverton School in Portland, and a beehive of campus support, the Pollinator Garden is now a part of our College campus.

Student and CASE Scholar Caleb Gravel was a key member of a large, interdepartmental team working on The Pollinator Garden Project on campus. A senior majoring in environmental science and double minoring in biology and sustainability studies, Caleb described why he cares about this project, “I’m passionate about making a spot, a safe space to conserve a species. I want to pursue conservation biology and help provide species with safe living spaces. I want to ensure that species are not going extinct.”

Photo credit: SJC Staff Maya Atlas

Saint Joseph’s College is the 73rd educational institution in the nation and the first in Maine to be certified as one of the affiliates of the Bee Campus USA program. This is a certification program that seeks to stabilize campus landscapes as ideal habitats for pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and more. The garden is tended by Professor Emeritus and Master Gardener Sue Kelly and campus community volunteers. If the project proceeds as planned, local seniors from the community will also have an opportunity to engage with the garden over the summer.

The Pollinator Garden is not only a beautiful place to stop and smell the roses (or in this case, the milkweed), it’s a place for the SJC campus and larger community to engage with the natural environment in an educational and informative way. As this “living laboratory” continues to develop, it will serve as a sustainability makerspace for research, innovation, and a beautiful place to visit to learn about the vital role of pollinators in our local food systems.

Photo credit: SJC Staff Maya Atlas

To see more about Caleb Gravel’s role in making the Pollinator Garden a reality, please visit The Pollinator Garden Project article in Saint Joseph’s College Magazine.

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