ELKHART — Third-graders at Woodland Elementary School recently got their hands dirty to help create a positive environment for bees and other pollinators.

The youngsters came out to an Elkhart Community Schools-owned farm on West County Line Road northwest of the city to plant pollinator plots on a half-acre.

Pheasants Forever brought over one million seeds and several plugs for the project. The Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation project brought over 100 saplings and demonstrations on soil compaction and its effects. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, through a grant, will cover the cost of educational signage, according to Ashley Robertson, head of the Horticulture Department at the Elkhart Area Career Center.

The habitat will be used to support education in related classes in the years to come, she said.

The eighth-grade introduction to agriculture, food and natural resources, will use it for soil studies; eight-grade biology students will use it to look at habitats and the species associated with habitat restoration; and the high school plant and soil science class will use it as a test spot to check the hypothesis that mowing does help encourage deeper root growth.

The project was part of the district’s annual Ag Days, designed to give students hands-on agriculture experience on a farm, and included a number of sponsors for a conservation project to create a wildlife flower and wildlife habitat on the field. In addition to planting pollinator plots, students were also able to get up close with farm animals, tractors and other farm items. 

The next plot will be planted by another third-grade class to be selected at a later date.

The site will also provide a place for further education of the community of Elkhart in the area of natural resources. The project will create a pollinator habitat which increases biodiversity in the area, Robertson said.

Within six years, a complete pollinator wildlife walk is planned, organizers said. It will be open and available to the public.

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