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Students of Environmental Biology at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County have just completed a course in which they learned about native plants as they collected seeds and planted pollinator gardens on campus, led by instructor David Caithamer. “Dr. Dave,” as they call him, has given the course a focus on service-learning and pollinators.
Students collected seeds from native flowers on the restored prairie and rain gardens on campus. They used many of these seeds to plant several new pollinator gardens on campus. They have also partnered with the Rice Lake Public Library and the Cable Natural History Museum to provide each with 100 envelopes of seeds that they will give away to their patrons.
In addition, students drafted language for interpretative signs or pamphlets that they will be giving to the Rice Lake Public Library, which recently established its own pollinator garden. The library may end up using these signs or pamphlets in the future.
The instructor said students have also been active with several smaller projects. In one project, they made observations along sections of the Rice Lake Recreational trails and reported their findings to Craig Fowler, who is working with the city and Rotary Club to make improvements on the trail network.
In another activity, students picked up trash at Narrows Park in Rice Lake. Students also cleaned up weeds that have invaded the area around the main sign for the campus and Northwood Technical College.
Students enrolled in the course earn one college credit and up to 30 hours of service-learning, which is required for graduation with an Associate’s Degree. Students can also use these hours to satisfy requirements for service-learning for a Bachelor’s Degree from the Eau Claire main campus.
“The main takeaway that I had from the lab portion of Dr. Dave’s course is that it is not extremely difficult to help restore natural habitats that had been previously lost,” Adam Einum said. “No special equipment is needed, just a working knowledge of plants and a strong pair of hands willing to do the work.”
Aryn Lipke said, “The most important thing that I have gotten from this course is knowledge on how to benefit pollinators. One way to do this is to plant a pollinator garden. My classmates and I planted multiple around campus, and it was a simple process that could have a great impact.”
“I have learned work goes much faster if you work as a team,” Milan Monchilovich remarked. “Give everyone an individual assignment; this will accomplish the overall task the most efficiently. I have also learned how to collect multiple native seeds and how to prepare a seed bed to plant them.”
Ethan Thom shared, “College is often viewed as an obstacle to overcome, but I don’t see it that way. College at the end of the day is an opportunity, and no other class compared to Dr. Dave’s has reinforced that to me more. Environmental bio gives me the opportunity to learn naturally by interacting with the environment vs. being strapped to a chair, eyes locked on a screen, which in these times of staying inside and hiding from your neighbor is awfully welcome.”
“When I began taking this class, I knew very little about the importance of preserving land and what types of plants are important and native to Wisconsin,” Elizabeth Kubnick said. “Throughout my semester with Dr. Dave, I learned to understand what native species are good for the environment where I live. I learned how to determine what species of plant I am observing, what pollinators are important and how I as an individual can help endangered pollinators. Lastly, I understood the importance of safety and feedback for the Rice Lake public trails and what can be done to improve it, as well as adding some structures that can benefit everyone.”
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from the Rice Lake Chronotype.