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Silver Award Girl Scout Sarah Builds Pollinator Garden at Cedar Bluff Middle School


Silver Award Girl Scout Sarah in Pollinator Garden

Silver Award Girl Scout Sarah had a unique vision: create a pesticide-free pollinator garden at Cedar Bluff Middle School to help increase the dwindling bee population.

The 520 square-foot garden utilizes local plants to attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and birds. Sarah’s goals for the project were to build a sustainable and healthy garden that Cedar Bluff students could maintain and learn from for years to come.

As a Girl Scout for nine years, Sarah learned about the dying population of bees on the internet and how important they are! She strategically picked the garden spot in a field behind the school, an area her science class had visited a year prior for protection.

For inspiration, Sarah took field trips to Knoxville Botanical Garden and the University of Tennessee (UT) Gardens. Her science teacher Dave Gorman was a passionate proponent, helping with school connections and permission. Linda Denton, from the UT Master Gardeners Club, was instrumental in the plant selection and planting. All the hard work paid off; the garden is now part of an outdoor, all-natural educational classroom for Cedar Bluff.

Sarah and her science teacher Dave Gorman

Starting the project in March 2018, there were many unanticipated obstacles. The only water faucet was too far away, so they had to get creative and make a 300-foot hose by connecting three together! Fighting heat and insects, Sarah and her mom, Mary, didn’t realize the rock underneath would require a pick ax to dig the holes. However, despite the setbacks, the garden was officially finished in September. 

“The plants are like my children,” said Mary. “I know it’s been a Girl Scout project, but it’s become a family project.”

Sarah and her mother Mary

The garden was made possible thanks to many donors in the Knoxville community, and the Joyce Maienschein Leadership Grant. Donors include the UT Master Gardener’s Club (Linda Denton), the UT-Agricultural Extension Office (Neal Denton), Elder’s Ace Hardware, Stanley’s Greenhouse, Living Earth Organics, and Sunlight Gardens. Native flowers to East Tennessee (see list below) were selectively chosen and donated as they’re better for pollinators. Non-native plants can be harmful and spread rapidly. The grant was used to purchase additional plants, a garden sign designed by Sarah, and tools.

Sarah’s favorite part of the project was educating and teaching the Girl Scouts in her troop about pollinator’s importance and the conservation of natural resources. She is currently planning to lead a “Save the Bees” workshop. As for her Gold Award, she wants to continue working with creatures.

“I learned about so many different types of plants,” said Sarah. “I’ve seen the bees and butterflies come down [to the garden]. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I want to do something related for my Gold Award.”

Full list of plants: Salvia Black and Blue, New Jersey Tea, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Itea Scentlandia “Sweetspire”, Joe Pye Weed, Bandara Purple Lavender, Red Sage, Meadow Sage, East Friesland Sage, Arizona Sunset Agastache, Verbena, Orange Daylilies, Fall Asters, Black Eye Susan, Butterfly Bush, Mountain Mint, Lenten Roses, Ageratum, Iron Weed, Oregano, Milkweed, Sedum, Coneflowers, Passion Flower, BlueBerry Sunshine, Salvia Argentine Skies, Fireworks Goldenrod, and St. Johns Wort.

For more information about how you can make a difference for Pollinators, visit millionpollinatorgardens.org.

For more information on becoming a Girl Scout, visit girlscoutcsa.org/join, call 1-800-474-1912, or email info@girlscoutcsa.org.