Friday, November 20, 2015

There is something about these birds…

While working through a pile of writing assignments, I find myself easily and cheerily distracted by the bird activity just outside my window.
Until recently, I never had a bird feeder and rarely did I stop to watch these feathered creatures being, well um, birds. Now I enjoy noting their personalities and habits. The sparrows are greedy and aggressive, flapping other birds off the feeder, the chickadees are stealthy and energetic, flitting in and out with seeds to hide away for winter, and the cardinals wing their way in, or often come around late in the day (about thirty minutes before dusk) to bulk up before bedtime?
Yesterday, two downy woodpeckers stopped by for water, a few bugs and sunflower seeds. I wonder where they will settle this winter? From what I’ve read, they look for dead tree trunks into which they excavate their nests.

I assume the cardinals will stay near here; Belmont is filled with tall evergreens and hedgerows and in the past a pair nested in my hemlocks.

Two chickadees are nesting in a birdhouse next door, but I’m not sure where the other half dozen who visited today hang out. I hope they will stay in the neighborhood this winter; they certainly have the capacity to withstand the cold, although last year’s winter was pretty brutal.

 As for other backyard visitors, the squirrels have grown less annoying, now that months have passed since they ate all my peaches, and I hope the chipmunk is still around, preparing to bed down deep under the lawn for the winter. Then there are the neighbors' cats. For the sake of my feathery friends, I hope they either pass through my yard or take out a few mice, who tend to find a way into my nearly century-old, porous house at this time of year!
Now back to work on rounding up future meadowmakers and hopefully bird, butterfly, bee, insect and mammal supporters!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Healing the Earth - One Meadow at a Time

Last summer, Waltham students and Meadowscaping staff replaced a tough turf lawn at 750 Main Street, Waltham MA with a sunny native plant meadow to: a) attract pollinators and provide wildlife habitat, b) educate youth about biodiversity and the seven other pillars of meadowscaping, and c) heal the Earth one meadow at a time.  Since then, we have been photo-documenting the seasonal evolution of our urban meadow. Notice that the native perennials in this 500 sq. ft. plot are already twice as tall as last year!
August 2014
February 2015
July 2015
We are pleasantly surprised by the beauty and scale of this year-old meadow bursting with variety and color—Aster, Bee balm, Boltonia, Coreopsis, False Indigo, Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, and 20 other flowers, shrubs, and grasses! And while most plants grew larger in the areas where we placed them last year, the progeny of several varieties, particularly the Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan, and Vervain have popped up all over the place! Passersbys are pleased by the aesthetics and allure of this place, while wildlife, including insects, pollinators, birds, and bunnies are thrilled by its function!
A Living Laboratory

 This meadow is a living lab that is changing all the time. Each week, we observe and record site conditions, measure plant changes, and identify and record visiting pollinators, noting which flower appeals to which pollinator, and for how long. To date, we have tracked at least five types of bee/wasp pollinators: Bumblebee; Honey Bee; Black and Yellow Mud Dauber; Yellow Jacket; and Paper Wasp. We have seen several flies other than the house variety: Deer Fly, Bee Fly, Hover Fly. We have overturned several soil lovers: earthworms, wireworms, wood lice, centipedes. And we have discovered beetles, fireflies, and caterpillars. Of all the visitors, my current favorites are the butterflies! A few types started to arrive in the third week of July: Cabbage Butterfly, Red Admiral Butterfly and, yes, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail! Have a look! Enjoy!
Bumblebee on Echinacea
Paper wasp
Baby Yellow Jacket on Vervain Leaf
Earth worm
Wood Lice
Caterpillar. Winter Moth?
Robin bathing
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Blue Gian Hyssop

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MEES 2015 Conference

Meadowscaping's Jean Devine and Barbara Passero presented a workshop, "Soil Smorgasbord" at the 2015 MEES Conference at Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA, on March 11, 2015.

MEES participants get dirty while experimenting with soil below:


Meadowscaping's soil tunnel intrigues participants who are on a scavenger hunt for items above, below, and on the surface of the soil. Trying to avoid ant burrows, earthworms, and all kinds of tiny creatures, they take turns going through the tunnel.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restoring the Past to Ensure Our Future...An Environmental Education Program that’s Good for the Earth plants its Roots in Waltham, Mass.

This summer, we launched the pilot of Meadowscaping for Biodiversity, an outdoor, environmental education program for youth, on the east lawn of Christ Church Episcopal, 750 Main Street, Waltham, MA.

Meadowscaping is simple in its vision for the next generation and elegant in its solution for their earth. 

Our vision is to inspire and empower youth to be stewards of the earth while teaching them how to heal her one meadow at a time. 

Our solution, (using a curriculum built on project-based learning), is to transform sections of monoculture lawns into biodiverse meadows that provide food and shelter – habitat – for bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife.

These meadows contain native plants and shrubs, sources of the essential diet/breeding ground that native species of insects and pollinators are challenged to find in urban developments and landscapes overrun with nonnative and invasive plants.

Here’s a picture:

Our meadow is not an abandoned lot filled with tall grasses and runaway vegetation.  Rather, it is a beautiful sunny garden.

We’re very lucky – maybe blessed – to have started Meadowscaping here. Why? Because our sunny meadow buzzes with activity! Since July, hundreds of bees and pollinators have found their way
It also soothes the soul in the midst of a busy spot in Waltham.  Yes, this meadow is just across the street from the public library, a few paces from the post office, a UPS store, cafes, the local Boys and Girls Club, and an active Yoga studio. Being along the main commuter route and abutting an active bus stop, this special garden garnered a lot of thumbs up, “what a beauty” “glad you did this” and “now I understand” from passersby. 

Best of all, this spot is a place of pride for our students, who, every time they pass or stop in to water and measure the plants, exclaim “that’s our meadow.”

So how did we do this? In this blog, we’ll share some highlights from the 2014 Meadowmakers: Barbara, Jean, Steve, Omar, Adam, Alessio, Lisa, Julie, Jim and Laura.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meadowscaping for Biodiversity(Meadowscaping) is an outdoor, project-based, environmental education program that provides middle school youth with real-world experiences in STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), while inspiring and empowering them to address challenges to the environment and human society.

Without biodiversity--defined as the range of organisms present in a particular ecological community or system--the earth lacks the foundation to support a variety of insects (including bees), birds, flora and fauna that, in their collective, diverse chain of relationships, contribute to our planet's food, air, and water--elements necessary to sustain all living creatures on Earth.

Creative programs taught by master educators provide student participants with hands-on learning methods that are practical tools for understanding the world. MEADOWSCAPING offers a meaningful, empowering opportunity for youth to get outside, develop environmental literacy, and apply knowledge and experience to solving problems affecting their local community.

Middle school students have the opportunity to work together outdoors on real-life research studies. Graduate students in STEAM subjects from local universities, landscape designers and architects, local gardeners, and professionals from related fields will serve as educators/mentors/role models and sources of information about STEAM environmental careers.

We say that the MEADOWSCAPING program builds "citizen scientists" and "stewards of the Earth." Children who spend little time outdoors may value nature less than children who spend time outdoors in free play. Similarly, children who feel part of something bigger than themselves may be right-sized--they don't feel separate from or more important than nature. They understand their dependence on a clean environment and know that they are responsible for caring for the Earth as their home. These children may maintain the feeling of responsibility when they grow up and have to make political and personal decisions on environmental matters.

At the same time, children who are aware of climate change and its serious effects on their lives may worry about the future, but they may feel powerless, thus frustrated and angry, especially at the adults who left them this second-class environment. Participating in this program will give them a simple yet effective way to feel that they are helping to improve their world.