Wildlife after-school program partners with Gardening for Life

Published 8:30 am Friday, February 24, 2023

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Last fall, the nonprofit organization, Weiler Woods for Wildlife, developed an education outreach component to encourage children to be more engaged with nature and to care about protecting vulnerable wildlife. 


In liaison with Polk County Schools after-school program, Weiler Woods for Wildlife is visiting area schools to share information with students about endangered and misunderstood animals. The organization’s staff and volunteers will explore relevant topics at each elementary school monthly and at the middle school twice a month. Students are learning about different kinds of wildlife, their habitats and challenges, and ways to help protect them. Each unit will include some type of related art or science activity.

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In the first after-school session at Polk County Middle School, students watched a time-lapse video of plants sprouting from seed, pushing roots into and up through the dark soil, then reaching into the air for sunlight. Volunteer teacher David Riddle talked about seeds growing into plants and how those seeds and plants become food for wildlife and for us. 


“What do animals need to survive?” asked Riddle. “Food, water, shelter, space.” 


Students realized that without having all these vital needs met the animals will die and that if too many animals of one species die, they can go extinct.


At Sunny View and Polk Central Elementary Schools, the relationship between plants and animals was demonstrated via a hands-on activity with the students stringing a web of connectivity between plants and different kinds of animals. Riddle, Loti Woods and Karen Dacey, staff at Weiler Woods for Wildlife, explained that everything in nature is connected and that healthy connections between plants and animals are crucial for all life forms.  


Gardening for Life is sponsoring a celebration on March 4 at Polk County High School auditorium featuring Doug Tallamy, renowned ecologist and prolific author. All spaces have been reserved for this free community event that will include educational exhibits, native plants, and community resources. More info can be found at gardeningforlifeproject.org.


In tandem with the Gardening for Life Celebration, students in the first month of the Weiler Woods for Wildlife afterschool program are decorating wildflower seed packets that will be given away to attendees at the event. The seeds distributed will produce plants native to this area of North Carolina. Participating students each get to take home a packet of wildflower seeds, generously granted by the Gardening for Life project.


When planning the Gardening for Life Celebration, members agreed that they wanted to engage students in learning more about healthy habitats. 


“The Seeds in Schools Program was a great way to do that,” said Corrie Woods of Gardening for Life. “Our partnership with Weiler Woods for Wildlife truly made our dreams come true for this project by delivering the pollinator habitat seeds and the lesson plans into the classrooms. We are beyond grateful and excited about the work they are doing and about this collaboration between community partners.”


If you would like to volunteer or want more information about supporting the organization’s mission, please visit weilerwoodsforwildlife.com or contact loti@weilerwoods.com or karen@weilerwoods.com.  


Submitted by Karen Dacey