University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit Master Naturalist Cindy Intravartolo and Extension staff were part of a team who educated V.I.T. Elementary students about a variety of natural resource topics during the Youth Pollinator and Conservation event coordinated by McDonough County Quail Forever.
Cindy led the breakout session discussion about the importance pollinators have on our environment. Students were challenged to name insects, birds, and bats that pollinate plants and provide food for humans and animals. As part of Cindy’s presentation, she instructed the children in making seed balls, with clay, soil, milkweed, and native prairie seeds. Every student took home the seed balls with its recipe and instructions for planting, along with encouragement to plant their own little pollinator plot.
“This is the perfect time of year to be planting milkweed and native prairie seeds,” said Christine Belless, Extension program coordinator for the Master Naturalist program. “They need the cold stratification to germinate and grow in the spring.”
Cindy spent time collecting local milkweed seeds as the pods are popping open this time of year to release their seeds. Other native pollinator seeds used were from the IDNR Mason State Tree Nursery. Christine added, “Cindy has a wealth of knowledge of the native butterflies of Illinois as she volunteers in the Kim St John Butterfly Habitat at Wildlife Prairie Park as one of her many Master Naturalist volunteer opportunities.”
McDonough County Quail Forever, Eagle Point Solar, and V.I.T. Elementary School partnered to put on the educational conservation day for the 140 students, kindergartners through fifth grade, held October 12.
The purpose of the Youth Pollinator and Conservation event was to raise awareness of the declining population of monarch butterflies, honey bees, and other pollinating insects while creating a habitat for these creatures. Along with learning about pollinators, students took an active role in seeding the school’s new pollinator plot around the solar farm. V.I.T. Elementary (Vermont, Ipava, Table Grove), recently installed a solar farm by Eagle Point Solar.
Katie Kauzlarich, Pheasants Forever’s Illinois Outreach Coordinator, shared, “The plots will not only help to provide critical habitat for pollinators but will also provide cosmetic beauty to the school grounds while reducing the cost of utilities, maintenance, and mowing.” Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever have coordinated seven Youth Pollinator and Conservation events throughout the state of Illinois, which included Extension Master Naturalist volunteers from across the state.