Help make Westmeade Tennessee's 1st Sustainability Magnet
Each day we honor the memory of Laura's father by carrying on her legacy of teaching children to love nature!
Serendipity is not a word we use often but it does describe what happened in the summer of 2015.. One of our parents introduced us to Cynthia Lee, President of Friends of Warner Parks and creator of a young naturalist's program at University School. Our Principal, Stephen Breese, a naturalist himself, who leads a boy scout troop in Dickson met with Cynthia and the connections to our campus and programs were clear. He offered encouragement and support and soon our students were on their way to Warner Park!
We learned of deeper connections to Warner Parks when we read the Tennessean's delightful article about the 90th birthday of the parks and of Laura Lea Knox, whose father donated the land for the park. Her grandchildren attended Westmeade!
Young Naturalists @Westmeade an extension of nature programs began in 2015
Nature Center Director, Vera Vollbrecht, made the Young Naturalist Program @ Westmeade a reality. Over the summer Cynthia and Heather Gallagher educated teachers, then helped them create curriculum connections that gave voice to deep personal experiences with nature. The goal of the Young Naturalists @ Westmeade is to engage students in life-long learning in nature.
Each grade level takes three seasonal journeys in a year to Warner Park. These field experiences foster a love for the natural world, personal curiosity, and an ability to observe, record, and understand their observations.
Former students offer gifts
In 2008 we began celebrating Earth Day with activities supported by Metro Nashville Beautification. Over the years they added new ideas for us to try. Our first encounters with composting came with Julie Berbiglia, who now works with Metro water teaching water conservation. The kids named her the "worm lady."
Then in 2011 & 12 Alex and Lucas Cauthen made us their Eagle Scout Projects and added another three beds, a retaining wall for our pollinator garden space, and a strip of native berries to our campus. With these additions new dimensions were added to our outdoor classrooms.
When the Cauthen's finished their projects whole new opportunities opened up in the Garden. Our pollinator garden brought hundreds of butterflies to our campus! To see what we learned about them you can click on the link and see the variety of Westmeade Butterflies we found in 2011 at our campus. Meeting these pollinators up close made us wonder what plants they needed to thrive. We learned that Butterflies are generalists. They can enjoy nectar from any flower, But their eggs must be laid on or near the plants they will eat when they hatch. The caterpillars are specialists, which is why we need to plant Milk Weed!
The National Wildlife Federation asks citizens to help monarchs by growing milkweed and other native nectar plants. This was our first forey into "citizen science." We learned that simply letting wild plants grow and not mowing them provides a delicious buffet for wildlife. And we learned that a weed is only a flower out of place!
The Westmeade Conservancy deepens our program
The Westmeade Conservancy had produced a book appropriate for k-4. The delightful piece was actually written about a young man, Noah Charney, who grew up in Westmeade and was concerned for its animals. The Conservancy provided a class set of the books for use with our students and helped us identify the plants in our perimeter.
They helped us develop lessons to encourage kids to be curious and learn about the things in their ow environment. The Campus naturalist field trip was a joint effort with the Conservancy to identify the plants and animals on our campus, and to help students observe seasonal changes. You can download a copy by clicking on the link. Student take a walk along side of the wild parts of our campus as they practice their observation skills.
As a result of their growing awareness of nature our 3rd Graders prepared the case for us to become a wildlife habitat and we earned that status. We learned a great deal about why animals are important to us. We learned what animals need and how we can help nature provide for them.
At the same time our Girl Scout Troop 1225 had spent an entire year gathering liter bottles for our new recycled bottle greenhouse. With the help of parents they completed the work in two weekends. Check out the slide show to see the construction..
Local bluebird enthusiast teaches us to love bids.
Sam Jones, local bluebird enthusiast taught us to make bluebird boxes, and we learned why we should be concerned about invasive species of birds and support local species. To see the full slide show with Sam helping parents and kids build their boxes follow the link, Westmeade Bluebirding.
Now each spring we look forward to welcoming new bluebird families into our lovely box. Kindergarteners experience the wonder of seeing the first eggs, the hatchlings, feeding the parents and welcoming the wild into our world!
Once students noticed the bluebirds they began to wonder about the other birds in our environment. John at the Wood Thursh gave us a magnificent Sibley's Birds of North American poster which we have laminated and use to identify species.
This was also our first major encounter with Warner Parks Nature Center. (and that takes us to our next step)