NATIVE PLANT LANDSCAPING AT FORSYTH
Audubon Society Presents Native Landscape Award
On May 15, 2015, Mitch Leachman, Executive Director of the St. Louis Audubon Society (at left with Head of School Mike Vachow), presented the St. Louis Audubon Society’s Bring Conservation Home program Silver Certification for the Forsyth School campus grounds, in recognition of the habitat that has been created for native birds, butterflies and pollinators. Of note, although the St. Louis Audubon Society works with many schools on the Bring Conservation Home program, which promotes growing native plants, Mr. Leachman reports that Forsyth is the only school in St. Louis to attempt a large-scale native plant landscaping, and the only school to be recognized with an award.
Back to Our Roots
Native landscaping at Forsyth began with the vision and planning of Forsyth parent and past parent volunteers, science teacher/environmentalist Gary Schimmelpfenig, Mitch Leachman, Executive Director of the St. Louis Audubon Society, and Director of Facilities Michael Mitchell, with support from the Forsyth School Plant & Land Committee. This group of Forsyth activists developed a master plan for native landscaping. Why native plants? More biodiversity, more sustainable landscapes, less maintenance. Native plants attract wildlife: birds, bees and other species. Not to mention learning opportunities for Forsyth’s students.
Back to Our Roots Is a Mission-Based Effort
The Back to Our Roots native landscaping is a confirmation of one of the tenets of Forsyth’s philosophy: “We are committed to environmental sustainability, and believe that an understanding of our world will determine how lightly we live on the planet.” This grass roots effort is driven and sustained by volunteers. St. Louis Audubon staff and volunteers began working with the Forsyth School community early in 2014 to help with the native landscaping master plan. Since then, three large projects have been completed including the butterfly garden at the front of Next House, the songbird corridor adjacent to the Big Backyard, and the plantings in front of Last House in May 2015. Forsyth students of all ages planted much of the songbird corridor and the beds adjacent to the Big Backyard.
Tracking Biodiversity at Forsyth School
In the fall of 2014, over 63 students from kindergarten through Grade 6, collected 85 species in a month-long Arthropod (bugs) BioBlitz on the Forsyth campus. This builds on the work of the 6th grade class of 2013 who received a grant to conduct a campus-wide plant and animal species survey. This study will serve as baseline information to determine to what degree the web of life can be re-woven on campus with the future addition of native plants, shrubs and trees.