By SJC Press Room – Ray Mosca

Pursuing its commitment to sustainability, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine has become the 73rd educational institution in the nation, and the first in Maine, to be certified as one of the affiliates of the Bee Campus USA program a certification program that seeks to stabilize campus landscapes as ideal habitat for pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, to name only a few. Saint Joseph’s College now hosts a Pollinator Garden on its nearly 500-acre campus, offers educational outreach programming, and complies with a number of guidelines. The Pollinator Garden Project team on campus involved dozens of students, faculty members from several different departments, fourth graders from Riverton School in Portland, as well as a grant award from Maine Campus Compact to help fund the project. 

student kneeling at raised bed of pollinator garden which was a sustainability project

Caleb Gravel ’19 working at the Saint Joseph’s College of Maine pollinator garden (Photo: Kaitlynn Hutchins)

In April, during its annual Sustainability Festival, the College opened to the public the campus pollinator garden – a cluster of raised beds designed to contribute to a campus habitat that allows the many local pollinator species to thrive. The garden showcases blossoms from a number of plants such as lupines, lobelias, and columbine, in addition to many others. Although there are over 20,000 species of bees that pollinate the majority of the world’s flowering plants, other species such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and a wide variety of insects play significant roles in plant reproduction. Given recent global trends that illustrate decline within many pollinator species, fostering habitats that allow pollinators to thrive is an important sustainability strategy. Professor Dr. Greg Teegarden advised that everyone consider using pollinator-friendly practices where they live.  “Plant shrubs and flowers that feed pollinators. Milkweed, for example, is one of the principal foods for monarch butterflies. Shun the use of pesticides on your lawn and garden.”

purpose columbine blossom

Columbine blossom in Saint Joseph’s College of Maine pollinator garden (Photo: Caleb Gravel)

Extensive campus-wide and interdepartmental collaboration involving students and faculty from the departments of education, communications, and sciences contributed to the project. The collaboration not only created a safer campus environment for pollinators, but also designed and delivered educational outreach to both the campus and Greater Portland community. Education Professor Dr. Patricia Waters said: “What I like about the education department at SJC is that we offer teaching experiences beginning as early as a student’s freshman year to get them out into the community.” The pollinator garden project created significant experiential learning opportunities, as education students prepped and delivered lesson plans about soil health, garden design, and the role of pollinators in food production to nearly one hundred Riverton Elementary students.   

Saint Joseph's College of Maine education students teaching in elementary classroom

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine education students teaching at Riverton Elementary (Photo: Gaetana Almeida)

A major component of achieving Bee Campus certification is the College’s commitment to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using nearly no neonicotinoid pesticides, glyphosate herbicide, or other potentially dangerous pesticides. In addition, the College had to commit to disseminating information to the campus and external communities to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators and encourage sustainability practices. Educational outreach includes the Saint Joseph’s College Integrated Pest Management Plan, a list of native plants incorporated into the campus landscape including their bloom time and habitat needs, links to student and faculty research into pollinator issues, and information about upcoming events.

For more details about the creation of the pollinator garden, see https://magazine.sjcme.edu/articles/pollinator-garden/.

For more details about the educational outreach associated with the garden, see https://magazine.sjcme.edu/articles/colleges-and-community-based-learning/

  

About Bee Campus USA

Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA are initiatives of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, with offices across the country. Bee City USA’s mission is to galvanize communities and campuses to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free of pesticides. Pollinators like bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and many others are responsible for the reproduction of almost ninety percent of the world’s flowering plant species and one in every three bites of food we consume.

About Saint Joseph’s College

Founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy in Portland, Maine, Saint Joseph’s College is Maine’s Catholic liberal arts College with a commitment to sustainability and wellness. The 474-acre campus, located on the shore of Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine offers more than 40 undergraduate programs and a nationally renown Division III athletic program to a population of approximately 1,000 on-campus students. The College provides certificates and undergraduate and advanced degrees for thousands more working adults who reside throughout the United States and in more than 20 other countries through an online learning program. In 2015 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized the College’s focus on community service through its mission and daily interactions with local, regional, and global communities with the Community Engagement Classification.