If you dig pollinator gardens, Ames teacher, students can help

Ames High science teacher Mike Todd and dozens of students will be involved in hosting the Iowa Prairie Network Winter Seminar on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the high school. Photo by Todd Burras

By Todd Burras


Interested in establishing a pollinator garden in your yard but don’t know where to start?

Let some Ames High students be your guides.

Dozens of biology students at Ames High who are involved with community-based Environmental Impact Projects and many others who are members of the Ames High Garden Club are working with professionals to design pollinator gardens this spring for Ames residents who sign up online.

Ames High science teacher Mike Todd said the students are collaborating with design professionals and native plant experts to help residents establish and maintain the gardens, which are free.

Many of the students involved will be working at this weekend’s Iowa Prairie Network Winter Seminar Saturday, Jan. 27, at Ames High School, 1921 Ames High Drive. The free event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and a slate of guest speakers, including Carl Kurtz, John Pearson, Lee Burras, Loren Lown and Mike Todd, will present workshops covering a wide variety of topics related to prairies.

To learn more about the seminar and the pollinator garden project, Todd provided answers to a few questions.

  • What’s the importance of Ames High Prairie to the network and to the mission of the Iowa Prairie Network?

The IPN works to preserve our natural heritage. The IPN Winter Seminar helps to educate and inspire people to get involved with these efforts, so its nice to have the Ames High Prairie on site for the seminar. Two years ago there was a winter hike in the morning to help people understand what happens to prairies and the plants in winter. Many people involved with the IPN have done work at the Ames High Prairie and they have been excited for us to host the annual event.

  • How are Ames High students involved with this event?

Ames High students are involved in the planning, promoting and organizing of the IPN Winter Seminar. A group attended the planning meeting, created a promotional card and over 100 students will help out with all aspects of the event on Saturday including presenting during one of the sessions.

  • Does the seeming rise of awareness in the public conscience of the importance of pollinators translate into an increasing interest/awareness of the importance of prairie?

I’m not sure, but it does allow our students an opportunity to educate the public about how to positively impact pollinators in our community through the incorporation of native plants that are host plants for 90 percent of insects.

  • In a nutshell what does the pollinator garden include that students are offering to help residents create?

Our students will be once again growing 10,000 native plants in our greenhouse and working with professionals to design and plant around 75 pollinator gardens throughout Ames. The pollinator gardens are around 30 square feet — some larger, some smaller — and contain all Iowa native plants. The public signs up on our link, then later this winter and spring a student group will contact them to set up a meeting at the site they would like a pollinator garden planted. The students collect information about the site — shade, moisture, soil sample, etc., — and the client’s preferences.

They also will be educating their clients about native plants and what to expect from the garden over the next three years.  Then the students work with design professionals and native plant experts to develop an initial design plan. They have another meeting with their client to get their feedback about the design and do some more education about the maintenance of the garden. Then the students finalize the design.

In April and May, the students prepare the site for planting, educate the client about Iowa One Call, etc. Then in the middle of May, the students plant the pollinator garden. Next year’s students will likely visit to get feedback about the first growing season and possibly again in future years.

For more information, contact Mike Todd at mike.todd@ames.k12.ia.us.


Todd Burras can be reached at outdoorstoddburras@gmail.com.

Free pollinator gardens

If Ames residents are interested in learning more about working with Ames High students in creating a pollinator garden, they can attend the Iowa Prairie Network Winter Seminar this weekend and/or sign up to get a free pollinator garden using the following link: https://goo.gl/mkN36S.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *