by Mary Stauble
Clean Air Carolina is excited to announce a new partnership with Wing Haven Garden & Bird Sanctuary to promote air quality education. Since its founding in 1927, Wing Haven has been offering visitors a look at Charlotte’s history and inspiring passion for the natural world. It is particularly known for its bird-friendly gardens.
In 2018 Wing Haven added the Student Environmental Education and Discovery (SEED) Wildlife Garden to provide an outdoor space for children to connect with nature. Children are invited to explore the garden’s natural environment. They can muck around in a stream and the soil, read stories under the shade of a tree, or learn more about the environment through plenty of hands-on activities.
SEED also includes an ozone garden featuring plants sensitive to ground-level ozone pollution, helping us detect the presence of an otherwise invisible but dangerous air pollutant. We cannot see the damage ground-level ozone does to our lungs, but we are able to observe its damage to the leaves of cutleaf coneflower and other ozone-sensitive plants. These bioindicators are like the “canary in the coal mine,” alerting us to problems in our environment.
Clean Air Carolina recently conducted air quality education in the ozone garden, working with a group of Homeschool Explorers ranging in age from five to twelve along with their parents. The kids learned how ozone gardens work, and how we can use them to find out whether the air we’re breathing is healthy. Kids also made air pollution catchers, learned about sources of air pollution, did leaf rubbings, and read a story about air.
Clean Air Carolina is also teaching Wing Haven staff and volunteers about air quality and demonstrating several air activities that they can use with children of various ages. We are also offering guidance in caring for their new ozone garden and setting up biomonitoring plants. This train-the-trainer model is a great way for Clean Air Carolina to expand air quality education across North Carolina. And finding great partners with existing gardens and motivated staff like Wing Haven makes the job that much easier!
To learn more about our air quality education work and find online resources for educators, check out our Clean Air for Kids webpage or contact us at [email protected]. And if you’re interested in learning more about Wing Haven’s work, be sure to attend their biennial Symposium on October 16 – 17.