This fall the Miami County Conservation District helped students at Gardner Edgerton High School create an expansive, 1000 square foot native plant garden on the campus of the school.
Chris Cardwell, Urban Conservationist, partnered with Aaron Batterbee, field biology instructor, and over 70 of his students to create the garden for the benefit of pollinators and birds, while also making an excellent learning site for students to survey plants and insects for their classes.
Batterbee approached the district for support in response to COVID restrictions limiting his opportunities to take students to natural areas outside the school grounds for field trips. Now, with a reconstructed prairie habitat right outside their classroom door, students can easily and safely conduct research such as tagging migrating Monarch butterflies, studying soil microbes, and identifying native plant species.
A fellow instructor in the GEHS biology department, Robert Barnhill, praised the effort, saying, “I want them [students] to understand the importance of having plants around, the fact that it will help the diversity of the ecosystem, and I think it’s going to be a great learning experience, as well.”
Gardner is one of three Johnson County communities that lie in the watershed of Hillsdale Lake, which is one of MCCD’s primary target areas for conservation and ecological health, so providing technical assistance for school districts and citizens upstream is an effective way to promote education and awareness of collective watershed health.
MCCD was awarded a national grant in 2019 to support this work, and Cardwell began the Urban Conservationist role of advocating for native habitat, and providing technical assistance to communities throughout Miami and Johnson Counties. Restoring native plant systems, even in small-scale areas like the school garden, can help mitigate the impacts of urban stormwater – deep rooted native plants help rainfall infiltrate back into groundwater stores, recharging our streams, filtering pollutants and reducing harmful runoff. For more information, or to reach the district for support for your conservation projects, visit for contact details.