By Marty MacCleery, Education Committee Chair
In early 2019, the president of the Wild Ones River City Board, Marty A, proclaimed that it was time to implement a Native Plants program for new members, however, simple the first program may be! No more talk… just action!
The Education Committee chose an evening in spring for the workshop, April 15, that was immediately prior to our regularly scheduled chapter meeting at our “home base” location in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We also decided it would be a 45-minute program primarily for new members (but would also welcome current members) based on highlighting the value of both our chapter’s and national’s educational resources. Our guiding principle throughout the planning process was “what would WE have liked to have had when we were new to native plants?” During the process of evaluating resources, we also created a new draft listing called “Helpful Online Links for Native Plant Topics” that we emailed to registrants of the class.
Our membership chair, Betsy Ford, shared the names and emails of all new members of our chapter from February 2018 to the present (April 2019) so that we could extend a personal e-invitation to each of them one month prior to the workshop.
In our invitation, we explained to future attendees that Education Committee members would be offering brief presentations and Wild Ones River City Chapter members will be on had to answer questions. “We are all eager to give you all the tools you’ll need to get started on this amazing journey of gardening, not just for you, but for all for the birds and pollinators, that share our space, and form the basis of the food web of which we are all a part!”
Our committee grouped our resources by category. Four of us chose several categories to present in 5-minute intervals from 5:40-6:00 pm (we had ppt slides running in the background that supported our topics):
- Gardening for Life by Tallamy, No Herbicides, Soil. (Nancy Bedell)
- Basic Native Plant Terminology, Site Prep, Invasives, Wild Ones 2004 Handbook (Marty MacCleery)
- Recommended Resources, Helpful Online Links for Native Plant Topics, Best of 2017 WO Native Plants Natural Landscapes Journal: Saving Our Bees, Yogurt’s Lessons on Nativars. (Marty MacArthur)
- Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants, Native Plants for Sun/Shade, Native Shrubs for Backyard Diversity, Michigan Native Plant Vendors for 2019. (Denise Coykendall).
- A fifth member was our timekeeper which was very critical, so we didn’t run over. (Chris Muldoon)
We opened it up for a lively Q&A session from 6:00–6:10 pm with two very knowledgeable long-time members, Ruth Oldenburg. and Amy Heilman, answering member’s questions.
In conclusion from 6:10–6:15 pm I explained our proposed Native Plant Mentor initiative and gave attendees time to complete the workshop evaluation.
In summary, the Education Committee is very proud of our first pilot native plant workshop. It was really important for us to meet the needs of new and current members regarding an introduction to native plants by supplying them with quality resources as they begin their gardening journey.
Fourteen people attended the workshop and 8 of 11 who filled out evaluations rated the program as “excellent” and 10 of 11 rated the information given as “useful.” Also, a number of topics were suggested by attendees for future programs. I have also informed attendees of local native plant sales coming up.
During the month of April, there were 4 membership renewals and 6 new memberships, very likely due to the interest in Native Plants Lite, per our membership chair.
According to Nancy Bedell, WO national Executive Director, Elaine, is interested in our Native Plants Lite course and liked learning which handouts were highlighted. Perhaps we should submit a summary for a Journal? Nancy also requested that WO national digitize the WO 2004 Handbook because of its useful contents, and they did! It’s currently on the national website “For Members Only” area in the link “Plant References.” These have all been wonderful side benefits of the workshop which has inspired and energized the Education Committee for the future!