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Brittany Woods Middle School Sustainability Students Win Green Schools Quest Award

BWMS Pollinators in bee suits

When it comes to nurturing our local pollinators, you’ve got to “bee” active. In May, Brittany Woods Sustainability students traveled around town in the Pollinator 3000 van spreading the word – and parsley seeds – about how to feed and nurture bees and butterflies in University City. Their efforts won them a Green Schools Quest award.

The Pollinator 3000 is a 21-year-old school district cargo van that’s been repurposed into some sweet wheels for Brittany Woods Middle School students buzzing around U. City to encourage healthy plant pollination by bees and butterflies.

A group of about 10 Brittany Woods students, The Pollinator Squad, is so successful at getting around town and promoting environmentally friendly practices and sustainability, they were awarded a 2021-2022 Green Schools Quest award in the middle school division. The awards are given annually by the Missouri Gateway Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The students learned they won the award at a special Zoom ceremony held April 28. 

Green Schools Quest is an annual project-based challenge to students in PreK-12 schools to implement creative, effective and low-cost sustainable practices with the help of a Green Mentor.

Under the mentorship of Brittany Woods Sustainability Teacher Anne Cummings, the seventh- and eighth-graders are part of the Sustainability II Class. Many are also beekeepers in training as they work to maintain and care for the school’s apiary, home to two thriving bee colonies. As part of their work, the students continue to learn about environmental stewardship and the importance of maintaining a healthy population of pollinators such as bees and butterflies to help plants and flowers thrive, produce food and reproduce. 

The Green Schools Quest judges took notice this year when the students created The Parsley Project, an initiative to make University City a haven for Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars and butterflies. The butterflies do an excellent job of flitting from flower to flower, transferring pollen to help plants seed and produce fruits and vegetables. Without pollinators, our environment would collapse – yet environmental stressors are making it harder for pollinators to survive on Earth and do their critical jobs.

In The Parsley Project, students are planting parsley in various areas around University City. Additionally, they gave out parsley seed packets to students in kindergarten and first grade and encourage them and their families or caregivers to plant the seeds in their neighborhoods. In the future, participants will be asked to log where they planted the seeds or parsley and/or cilantro plants into a computer mapping system to enable the Pollinator Squad to monitor possible areas in the city where pollinators may need more of the herbs. 

Why parsley? As any gardener will tell you, insects love to munch on certain herbs. The nutrients in the herbs enable caterpillars to first cocoon inside a chrysalis as a pupa, then undergo their metamorphosis, and finally emerge as butterflies. Once in flight, the butterflies search for nectar in flowers and spread the plants’ pollen to flora along the way, fertilizing plants and encouraging growth of fruits, vegetables and seedlings.

The Pollinator Squad knows that bees, butterflies and their function as pollinators are often misunderstood. Bees are often feared and destroyed by humans because they sting when threatened. So, as part of The Parsley Project, the students plan to hit the road in the Pollinator 3000 van (driven by Cummings). They plan to visit younger elementary district classrooms and teach the students about the pollination cycle and also the life cycle of butterflies. Part of their talk includes the game Bees Freeze – a way to teach children how to avoid getting stung. Each student will go home with a packet of parsley seeds to germinate and grow and a “BWMS Pollinator” sticker to show their support.