Pollinators/Art/Urban Agriculture/Society/and the Environment
The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation in 2013 joined forces with institutions in Kenya, Africa, and Arizona and with a range of urban gardeners to involve 28 young people, age 17-22, in designing and establishing pollinator gardens and pollinator habitat sculptures. They did this while reaching out to residents of their urban communities. They also shared messages about the importance of developing pollinator habitats within community gardens.
Called P.A.U.S.E, Pollinators/Art/Urban Agriculture/Society/and the Environment, the nearly $200,000 project was supported by a one-year $86,000 grant from Museums Connect (formerly Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad). Museums Connect is made possible by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums. The remaining costs are being shared by the Zoo and its project co-sponsors – the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi and Tohono Chul Park of Tucson, Ariz.
Today we are witnessing a worldwide rise in food production costs coupled with an alarming global decline in native pollinators. More than 35% of the world’s food crops – one bite in three at the dinner table – rely on animal pollinators. At the same time, more and more people are living in urban areas (about 80% of the world’s population) without access to fresh and affordable produce.
The role of native pollinators in assuring our food supply and the overwhelming threats they face from pesticides, pollution, disease and habitat destruction is poorly understood. While local food movements and urban garden projects are increasing in popularity, many urban areas remain disenfranchised.
Recognizing the challenges facing urban populations in preserving wildlife habitat, agricultural practices and food resources, the P.A.U.S.E. Project seeks to help youth teams from each city explore their "roots."
Three youth teams of 8 to 10 students worked at each of the three urban centers, St. Louis, Tucson and Nairobi. The youth collaborated with museum staff and community experts as they learn about native pollinators, urban gardening, heirloom crops, artistic expression, sculpture design and project promotion through a variety of media.
Learning activities in each city linked teams electronically, allowing for shared experiences and “cross-cultural pollination.” Finally, youth teams implemented plans for citizen-managed gardens and pollinator habitats on vacant or abandoned land in each city while sharing all that they learned with their wider communities through social media.
The Teams Are:
- Attended one or two meetings/works sessions per month
- Collaborated on the design and planting of an urban/community garden suitable for your region
- Collaborated on the design, fabrication and installation of a pollinator habitat sculpture
- Designed appropriate signage for the urban/community garden
- Developed and disseminated educational materials about the threats to native pollinator populations, the role of pollinators in our food systems, the benefits of locally sourced foodstuffs and how local communities can become involved in similar projects including internet technologies and social media
- Planned and executed a celebratory event in June 2013 to share with the community the success of the project
- Learning Event 1 (November 8, 2012)
This event focused on information technologies and their application in education. It was hosted by Saint Louis Zoo staff in St. Louis and conducted via video-conferencing to all other cities.
- Learning Event 2 (January 10, 2013)
This video-conferencing event educated participants about pollinators, their habits and habitats. It featured speakers covering the basics of biology and entomology as well as the critical role of pollinators and the challenges they face today. Following the event, youth teams worked on pollinator guides for their respective regions, researched foods and their pollinator partners and discussed what a food map of their community might look like and where their food comes from.
- Learning Event 3 (April 3, 2013)
Four members of the Nairobi youth team came to the United States with visits first in Tucson where they were hosted by Tohono Chul Park and then to St. Louis. Support for visits came from Gateway Greening in St. Louis and Native Seeds SEARCH in Tucson. There were opportunities for the Tucson and visiting Nairobi youth team members to visit a local seed bank, pollinator gardens, dry land farms growing traditional crops and an indigenous cultural museum. Long distance learning technologies will connect onsite teams with students in St. Louis and Nairobi.
- Learning Event 4 (April 6-12, 2013)
Hosted in St. Louis by Saint Louis Zoo, this session explored the principles of design and fabrication for the construction of an outdoor pollinator habitat sculpture using reclaimed and recycled materials. This session included opportunities for the St. Louis and Nairobi teams to visit urban gardens, local art museums or botanical gardens, and the Zoo's Insectarium.
- Participants unveiled plans for a unique Forissant, Mo., community garden. Youth will be practicing their design and gardening skills at the 3.5 acre site, which calls for best practices for attracting pollinators to improve fruit and vegetable yields. Plans call for a prairie habitat, a wildflower walk, historic and native American gardens, sculpture, an orchard and plants that attract pollinators. The area will include a shared garden for local food banks and space dedicated to raised beds for people in wheelchairs and for educational programs and events.
- Learning Event 2 (January 10, 2013)
- And finally, as both an incentive and reward for their commitment and participation, members of the Tucson and St. Louis youth teams traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, in June 2013, to visit the Kenyan youth team, experiencing international travel and expanding their understanding of the world and the conservation issues faced by other countries.