Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Faith In Action: The Gift Of A Garden

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Before presenting this idea to participants, seek support from others in the congregation, particularly the religious educator, Board of Trustees, minister, and fund-raising committee. If the congregation has a committee that is frequently involved in community activities, its support would be helpful. Congregational supporters could be useful in contacting local schools or school boards, fund-raising, publicity, and man/woman power.
  • Research possible recipients for the butterfly garden. Local schools might show the most interest, and they would have a constant supply of people to help maintain the garden. Other possible recipients include assisted living facilities, medical centers, and city parks. Your local Ronald McDonald House, treatment centers for the mentally ill, or drug rehabilitation centers might also appreciate a bit of flora and fauna to brighten up their days. Come prepared with some suggestions to offer the group during the activity.
  • Photocopy Handout 2, Tips on Caring for Your Butterfly Garden, one for each participant

Description of Activity

In this activity, participants design and build a community butterfly garden.

Ask participants if they have ever watched a butterfly flit from plant to plant. What was that experience like? A popular elementary school activity involves raising caterpillars into butterflies. Ask participants if they have had that experience.

Then say, in your own words,

Many people enjoy watching butterflies. Some people plant butterfly gardens specifically to attract butterflies. Butterfly gardens are very popular. Does anyone know where a butterfly garden exists, or has anyone seen one? Do you think creating a butterfly garden for others to enjoy would be a good use of our time?

Give the group an overview of what is involved, including costs and the possible need to fund-raise or seek donations. Refer to Leader Resource 1, Butterfly Garden. (Leader Resource 1 is written for creating a garden in a local school, but can apply to any site.) If participants express interest, ask what could be gained by building such a garden. Write youths' answers on newsprint. If the list does not include "sharing the beauty and wonder of the natural world," suggest it as a possible goal.

Once the group has decided that building the garden is a worthwhile endeavor, brainstorm places to which they would like to give such a gift. Narrow the list down to two or three specific places, by either reaching consensus or voting. Rank the choices and decide who will make contact and offer the gift of the garden. The person in charge of contacting potential recipients should approach the first-choice place first, the second-choice place second, and so on.

Set up a timetable on newsprint. The timetable needs to be specific for your project and should include target dates and/or timeframes for at least the following tasks: meeting with the owners of the garden space for further planning; designing the garden; estimating costs, required hours of labor, and tools/materials needed; receiving the funds to purchase materials; purchasing materials, including plants; planting the garden; and at least one follow-up visit to the garden. You might also need to schedule fundraising. If others will be maintaining the garden, make sure they will be available either during planting or during a follow-up visit to receive instructions. You can give Handout 1, Tips for Care of Your Butterfly Garden, to anyone who will be maintaining the space.

The North American Butterfly Association sells guides to butterflies that are region-specific, and they are good sources for gardening.

Including All Participants

Outdoor spaces can vary widely in accessibility. Accessibility to the butterfly garden is necessary for both your group and everyone who wants to enjoy it. Washington State University has an online guide for making gardens accessible to those of all ages. It includes information on raised flowerbeds, which you might consider adding to provide gardening space for people using wheelchairs.