Lauren poses in front of the seed box she installed at the Maryville College Pollinator Garden.
Pollinate Our Planet: A Gold Girl Story
Lauren Huffstetler of Maryville knew the power to bring about change means taking action. She created a project to educate and provide tangible ways to restore pollinator habitats. Her efforts resulted in earning a 2022 Girl Scout Gold Award.
Gold Award Girl Scouts are high schoolers who address issues they’re passionate about by planning and implementing a project that produces lasting change in the community and beyond. It is the Girl Scouts’ highest and most prestigious honor.
Lauren and her team invested more than 240 hours in the project over two years – surely encouraged by an experience she had when she was younger. “Each spring, we would encounter butterflies at my family’s cabin – it was magical when they would rest on my arm! The electric company sprayed herbicides along the adjacent power lines, killing plants that the butterflies relied upon,” she shares. “It caused immeasurable damage to the ecosystem. We couldn’t immediately undo the damage, but we worked to repair it.
“My family planted a wildflower meadow under the power lines to restore the wildflowers that had been lost. We got the land certified as a National Wildlife Habitat so it would not be sprayed again and installed ‘no spray’ signs. It took a bit of time, but the butterflies eventually returned. This experience showed me that the actions of individuals and companies can have either a positive or a negative impact on pollinators.”
Lauren wanted to address the loss of food sources and habitats for pollinators due to development. She created fun, free, and informative educational resources to engage people of all ages and shared them on the website she created, PollinateOurPlanet.com. She used her design skills to create coloring pages and brochures to guide people on what seeds to plant in each region of the United States to attract pollinators, as well as signs users can print for their gardens.
Some of the coloring sheets that Lauren created.
Lauren applied for and received a $500 Joyce Maienschein Leadership Grant to fund her project and purchased seeds in bulk, then packaged them in smaller packets. She created and distributed more than 700 packets (more than 5 million seeds!) and gave them to gardening organizations and the public library’s seed library and set up a contactless booth (during the COVID-19 pandemic) at an America Recycles Day event. She also installed a waterproof box of seeds at the Maryville College pollinator garden – a garden she worked with students at Maryville College to create.
She created the Pollinator Garden Challenge to actively engage people and garden groups to cultivate their own pollinator gardens.
“Over the two years that I worked on my Gold Award, I found myself drawing upon all the leadership skills and confidence I’d developed in Girl Scouts,” she shares. “So, when I encountered a problem or task that I’d never tackled before, I was confident that I could find a way forward. I learned how to design a website and coloring pages, and I created my first marketing campaign. I also learned how to be adaptable when the global pandemic put a major wrench in my plans.”
“Just as important,” she continues, “I learned how to delegate, and that it’s OK to ask for help and guidance. I found creative ways to lead which played to my strengths as an introvert, learning that I do not have to be extroverted to be a leader. Most importantly, I learned how to communicate my message effectively to a local and national audience, and how to use my passion for my project to motivate other people to support my cause.”
Pollinator friend hanging out in the Marvyille College pollinator garden.
Bees and butterflies aren't the only ones to benefit from a pollinator garden. One of Lauren's pollinator gardens served as a safe haven for these baby bunnies. Furry mammals are actually pollinators, too! Pollen sticks to their fur and, as they travel, is relocated.
Her work on this project also has garnered awards from American Veterans (AMVETS), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and National Society of High School Scholars.
Lauren enjoys traveling with her family, especially on three-week road trips they take each summer, and she prioritizes time in nature, with activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. “But when I’m not feeling adventurous, you can find me reading in my hammock under a shady tree.”
She is now a freshman at Maryville College and plans to pursue study in hospitality, outdoor studies, and design.
Congratulations, Lauren! Visit girlscoutcsa.org to learn more about the Girl Scouts.