Earlier this month, the team behind the UCW Pollinator Project convened students, staff, and community members for a planting day at our Woodlawn campus. The project is funded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which awarded UCW a grant to install pollinator habitats on the campus green roof and near the campus entrance. The UCW Pollinator Project team includes UCW Middle School faculty member Kate Carter, consultant Richard Dobbins of South Side Roots, Inc., and our three UCW High School garden interns Jeremiah, Sabirah, and Beyonca. The team has spent the past six months researching and planning gardens for the project.

On the planting day, the UCW Pollinator Project team and volunteers gathered to transform our Woodlawn campus by planting native pollinator-friendly species that were curated with the expert guidance of the project’s plant provider, CJ Fiore Nursery. Among the volunteers were Kathleen Golomb of UChicago Landscape Services, who supported the team’s efforts by providing plant placement advice, and several UChicago Charter staff members and friends, including our Director of Partnerships Todd Barnett as well as our Woodlawn campus nurse Susan Taylor and her daughter Leah. UChicago Charter would like to give a special thanks to community gardener Barbara Klaw for her service on planting day as well as Emil Bojanov, a UChicago alum who is a part of the Garden Team. He first volunteered in the creation of a pollinator strip for the project’s learning garden in 2019.

The project’s goal is to support pollinating animals such as birds, bees, and butterflies throughout the growing season. As a result, different flowers in the garden with bloom from April through October, and other plant components like seeds and grasses will provide food and habitat for pollinator species. The team also selected perennial plants that require relatively little water, ensuring that the garden is both sustainable and low-maintenance.

The left side of the image shows a staff member from UChicago Landscape Services advising others on planting during the planting day, and the right shows interns and UChicago Charter staff with shovels in front of the UCW building garden

The garden interns also selected a color scheme to match the Woodlawn campus’ maroon and navy school colors, with white as an accent. Repeating color blocks along the north and east faces of the building consist of sedum plants, which feature red leaves, and plumbago and gentiana plants, which feature blue blooms later in the season. The garden’s green groundcover consists of wild geranium. Later this summer, the maroon and navy colors of the garden will fill three large block letters — UCW — along the southeast face of the building next to the main campus entrance.

Several shrub species bound the back of the gardens: Aphrodite Sweet Shrub, Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire, and Fragrant Sumac. Several high-value pollinator plants also cluster in various areas around the garden: magnus coneflower, butterfly weed, purple dome aster, golden Alexander, meadowsweet, prairie dropseed grass, and little bluestem grass.

Over the summer, our garden interns will work with South Side Roots, Inc. consultant Richard Dobbins to continue monitoring and maintaining the garden. During that time, they will determine additional plantings required to complete the greenscaping, and the team also hopes to install boulders and benches. These additions to the garden will be made possible by funding from the South East Chicago Commission Neighborhood Enhancement Grant. UChicago Charter would also like to give a special thanks to Christy Webber Landscapes for providing relevant ideas regarding this forthcoming project in addition to site preparation for the garden earlier this year.

With the support of this grant, UCW is also creating opportunities for students to learn about native pollinators and pollinator habitats in the classroom. In the coming school year, the team will work with faculty and staff to develop educational media around the pollinator garden to incorporate the UCW Pollinator Project into school curricula. There will also be additional opportunities for the community to support the project, and we hope to continue to grow the team behind it! If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Kate Carter at kcarter@uchicagocharter.org. To stay up to date on UCW Pollinator Projects happenings and events, follow @gerbersgarden on Instagram!