By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington’s rail-trail has a brand new, bright and colorful pollinator garden, designed and built by students from Kelley Elementary School’s Art for a Cause club.
The garden, which sits right behind the Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA, was dedicated to the Town of Southington on Sunday at a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The after-school art club is made up of about 60 students from grades 2-5 and is run by two volunteer parents, Kim Rees and Claire Beane. The club teaches students social awareness by finding a solution for daunting issues one step at a time.
The two women had the vision for the pollinator garden over a year ago, so they attended a board of water commissioners meeting last October to present their idea, since the garden sits on property owned by the water department.
Officials welcomed the partnership. “It’s incredible how involved these ladies were to make this project happen, staying in touch with the department two or three times a week, and coming out here to build this on their own time,” said water department superintendent Bill Cassarella.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Rees and Beane turned the presentation over to the students and let them explain the project. Students said that the club wanted to give one large gift that the whole community could enjoy.
A pollinator garden focuses on native plants that attract pollinators, such as honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies, ladybugs and moths. When the pollinators move from one plant to the next, the pollen grains are distributed.
Students shared concern about habitat loss as buildings and homes come in and clear out natural landscaping. “We wanted to do something to help them,” shared one student.
According to the presentation, the colorful plants are more than just a sight to see. They aid in transferring carbon dioxide to oxygen, and their root systems help prevent erosion in the earth.
The garden features a peace pole, a bee hotel, several painted stones in groups organized by color, and of course, plenty of flora. When spring rolls around again, over 700 bulbs of tulips and daffodils will break ground and bloom.
Several local groups came together to help financially, including Ideal Tavern, Testa’s Banquet Facility, Simone’s Hair Salon, Nu Face Home Improvements, Harry E. Cole & Son, Ben Was Here, Inc., DePaolo Furniture, Ali’s Nursery, Evergreen Nursery and Casertano’s Greenhouse & Farms. Additionally, Southington Lowes provided a team of 11 volunteers to help with building the garden.
Rees and Claire thought the pollinator garden would be an opportunity to encourage creativity and also be an educational experience. The club meets once per month after school.
“We’ve been doing the program for six years now,” said Rees. “Claire and I just happened to be at the PTO meeting years ago and they needed someone to do an art club. We decided to take on that role, and over the years it’s just gotten bigger and better.”
Students shared ways that families can help pollinators at their own homes, such as buying organic foods, avoiding using pesticides, and planting their own flora.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.