By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Sunday's Grand Island Garden Walk will include a stop at a courtyard maintained by the fastest growing garden club on the Island: the Kaegebein Garden Club.
Students at the elementary school on Love Road have taken a strong interest in gardening and have built Garden Club membership to 50 students with a waiting list, up from 25 last year, said Janet Gorfien, a teacher and club advisor at Kaegebein. Their courtyard and its garden beds and pollinator/butterfly garden will be on display at the Garden Walk. Last year, the first year Kaegebein participated in the Garden Walk, the courtyard had 83 visitors, who were helped by students.
"The kids came and they had their iPads and directed people how to use the interactive learning stations" in the courtyard, Gorfien said.
The Garden Walk will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 8. Maps of the tour to Island locations will be available at the Town Commons.
On June 8, the school erected a sign in the courtyard that thanks volunteers who have made the Kaegebein Courtyard a success. The sign acknowledges help from parents, teachers, and PTA, among others.
"Gardens are great metaphors for schools," Kaegebein Principal Mary Haggerty said at the sign dedication, explaining teachers plan and prepare for students by "planting the seeds of knowledge that will benefit them later on."
In both endeavors, we learn valuable lessons, Haggerty said. "Your efforts," she said of the volunteers, "have provided real-life models of kindness and perseverance. Your generosity and enthusiasm in helping with the work to make this garden a reality have taught our students that helping others leads to wonderful outcomes."
Garden Walkers will see at Kaegebein garden beds built with the money and muscle of Thermo Fisher Scientific, a biotechnology company on Staley Road.
"We could not have done these beds without Thermo Fisher. We could never have afforded to do it," Gorfien said. In the new beds, the students grow the three sisters - corn, beans and squash - a process that is in step with the curriculum covering Iroquois culture, she said.
Steve Gorfien, Thermo Fisher senior director of cell culture research and development (and Janet's husband), said the company holds an annual Get Involved Day, which has turned into getting involved at Kaegebein for four year now. Helping build the garden beds fits with the company culture, he said.
"Thermo Fisher's mission is to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer," Steve Gorfien said. "And science education, STEM education, is one aspect of that, so we were as a company happy to fund projects like this that teach the kids about sustainability and biology."
Holly Trombetto of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was on hand June 8 for the sign dedication. She helped the students create a pollinator/butterfly garden that establish milkweed, the only plant that Monarch butterflies can eat and reproduce on. Pollinator gardens support butterflies, bees and other insects, Trombetto said.
A highlight of the garden from the students' point of view has been the Monarch butterfly making the pollinator garden home before heading south. More and more students are hoping for the Monarch's return.
"It's really amazing that the kids are fighting to get into this garden club," Trombetto said.