By MADDY VITALE
Preschoolers were eager to help adults out Tuesday and dug in — literally — with shovels in hand to help create a monarch butterfly garden at the Ocean City Tabernacle.
The Ocean City Environmental Commission and the ARK Preschool at the Tabernacle, 550 Wesley Ave., joined together for the project. The focus was not only to help grow the monarch butterfly population, but also to educate the children about the importance of the butterfly.
“Everyone had a great time. It was much more productive and the most surprising thing was how engaged the kids were,” Catherine Cipolla, a member of the city’s Environmental Commission, said in an interview. “The children ran from garden to garden, plant to plant and couldn’t wait to get the shovel in the ground.”
Teen volunteers Olivia Heng and Channon Styler from the Ocean City High School Environmental Association assisted in preparing the land, while the preschoolers helped plant the milkweed and nectar plants.
Cipolla thought up the idea for a monarch butterfly garden. But she needed a location to do it.
She, along with fellow commission member Betsy Lehman, went to the Tabernacle with the idea.
“Pastor Jay and his wife Missy were incredible through this whole process and were very willing to talk to Betsy Lehman and I. They were gracious hosts in talking with us about what we wanted to do and coming up with an area for the garden,” Cipolla noted.
Cipolla said that Pastor Jay Reimer came up with the perfect area for a garden.
“Pastor Jay chose this area because it is enclosed and the kids could walk through and show their parents,” she said.
The preschool teacher Beth Mack made a sign she will put in the garden that says “Butterfly Garden Under Construction,” Cipolla added.
Not only did the Tabernacle allow the garden, but the commission will work with the children on the garden under the supervision of the preschool teacher.
“The kids were so happy and they chose spots for where they wanted the plants to go, Cipolla said. “They sat quietly and listened. They were really entertained. They really seemed to love it.”
Environmental Commission Chairman Rick Bernardini said Cipolla truly deserved the credit for the idea for the project.
“As far as the project, Catherine has been working on doing the butterfly gardens for a couple of years. This was really her research,” Bernardini said. “She saw this thing through and the preschoolers at the Ocean City Tabernacle really learned a lot today. They will keep track of the garden. They were more than eager to grab shovels and help.”
Cipolla said the Environmental Commission hopes to continue with more environmental projects in the city to further the goal of educating the community about the need for native plants to help with the monarch migration and about other ways to help living creatures.
“We are hoping that we will be able to continue to find places in the city to add more native plants,” Cipolla noted. “Any time you are putting plants in the land instead of grass, you are helping the environment.”