Pulaski County High School agriculture teacher Carley Pavan has been recognized as a Harmony Hero for her efforts in creating a sensory learning, outdoor, ADA-compliant classroom experience for students to help bring back the community’s ecosystem with an emphasis on monarch butterfly protection.
The Harmony Hero Award Program is part of EarthKind’s 2021 Year of the Monarch national initiative. Through a rigorous nomination and selection process, the nation’s leading plant-based pest prevention brand is recognizing one K-12 teacher across the country each month who is committed to implementing eco-education initiatives into their curriculum, with the focus on getting kids outdoors and connected to nature at an impressionable age. Each recognized teacher will receive complimentary in-service training from an entomologist on IPM practices for their school, helping them become safer, healthier places. They’ll also receive sustainable product essentials for eco-education and outdoor adventures, and will be considered for the grand prize of sending one teacher and three guests on an all-expense paid trip to Mexico in March 2022 to visit the Kingdom of Monarchs habitat, where they will witness the amazing migration of millions of butterflies.
The idea, Pavan describes, was ignited after coming back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, “When we came back to school, students were feeling burnt out, constantly staring at screens, we weren’t doing a whole lot of hands-on learning which is what we do in the Agricultural department. The Sensory Trail is a handicap accessible trail, which, through educational exhibits, will highlight different species and pollinators found in the trails. It’s meant to serve the purpose of educational for all. That might be someone who has a mobile impairment, a visual impairment or an intellectual impairment.” Pavan’s students even helped design and create an ADA-compliant raised garden bed that a wheelchair can roll right up to (pictured), so the plants are right at the chest level of the student.
“To see this student use the table and witness the joy that came to him when he got to put his hands in dirt was mind-blowing because he’s never had that opportunity before.”
With over 200 students participating in the program, Pavan’s idea, like the monarch butterflies she strives to protect, has proven to be resilient. To date, they’ve planted tons and tons of plants that are native to Virginia and the U.S, have removed all of the invasive species, built pollinator houses, garden houses and outhouses, and are working on making the trail fully handicap accessible.
Pavan’s efforts have been an inspiration to young students struggling through the pandemic, instilling them with a passion for protecting their natural environment and living in harmony with nature.
- Submitted by Sara White