Above: Botany class makes garden beds. Submitted photos
By Sara Gomez
As universally agreed upon, this school year has been quite difficult – particularly as we slowly emerge from the pandemic. East Greenwich High School has not been immune to these struggles, but as the school year wraps up, the science department is working to bring some color and life to the campus in an effort to end the tumultuous year on a high note. They are doing this by planting pollinator, wildflower and sunflower gardens around the school.
Nicholas Rath, the head of the science department, is spearheading these efforts alongside his Advanced Placement Environmental Science and Botany classes. He received grant funds from the R.I. Foundation for the idea of teaching students about the life cycle of monarch butterflies. In addition, Mr Rath also received money from the EG High School Student Council that was matched by Kevin Murphy on behalf of the School Committee, to build a raised vegetable garden as part of a unit on sustainable agriculture.
With these additional resources, Mr. Rath was able to enact his plan to liven the high school, provide crucial habitat, while at the same time teach about the ecological benefits of pollinator gardens. He first assigned a senior, Mia Pinkes, to craft a mural depicting the monarch butterfly migration in the science wing hallway.
“I think art is a great way to get people talking about these fascinating and essential animals,” said Pinkes. “And I love that people our age are finding new ways to have a connection with the outdoors.”
The students have also built raised garden beds along the back of the building, constructed three small gardens outside the cafeteria, and planted a pollinator garden next to the science wing. Milkweed was grown from seed in the greenhouse and has been planted in the pollinator garden. Monarch butterfly larvae have been ordered and will be placed on the milkweed plants in early June. These gardens will provide a home for the monarch butterflies as they begin their extraordinary migration to Mexico. The graphic design class, taught by Mrs. Deanna Agresti, assisted as well by designing, printing and laminating unique “EGHS Pollinator Garden” signs. In addition, the classes have also been working on two sunflower gardens next to the student parking lot. The idea is that when the students come back to school next year, the sunflowers will provide a burst of color as students make their way into school.
As a whole, Mr. Rath and his classes have brought a lot of life and spirit to East Greenwich High School at the end of this tough year. The support and energy from the community has been a major help throughout the process and we are excited to see the next steps.
Sara Gomez is a senior at East Greenwich School. She will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall.