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Insects and Human Interactions Course Leads to Bountiful Returns

By Janlyn Thaxton



One look at the prayer garden at the Big Country Baptist Assembly in Lueders, Texas, and Dr. Andrea Jenson knew exactly how she could intertwine one of her courses with a practical application.Jenson, assistant professor of biology, is the head of the Hardin-Simmons University Biology Department and teaches a class called Insects and Human Interactions. To Jensen, the prayer garden seemed an ideal setting for a butterfly garden and a perfect opportunity for students to put knowledge into practice.The project grew out of a desire by camp director Larry Searcy and HSU associate professor of math, Dr. Ken Davis, who continue to seek opportunities for new projects and ways Hardin-Simmons and BCBA can partner their resources. Jensen explained, “Dr. Davis took me and several other faculty members out to the Big Country Baptist Assembly. While touring the property, we came across the sunken prayer garden. {{more}}I asked Mr. Searcy if he would like for us to plan and plant a butterfly garden as an extension of their already existing prayer garden.” Jensen says Searcy liked the idea, so she and her students began the design for a garden, incorporating plants that either attract butterflies or supply food for caterpillars. To begin the project, Jensen invited the designer of the Abilene Zoo’s butterfly garden to speak to students in the course. The students then took over responsibility for the design, planning, and cultivation of the plants that would become the butterfly garden at BCBA. “Diane Beckham, a biology major in our department, oversaw planting, propagation, and maintenance of many plants in the campus greenhouse during the fall semester, Christmas break, and early spring semester,” says Jensen.Today, the butterfly garden is a reality. Beckham and other students from the Holland School of Sciences and Mathematics built a retaining wall and then a border of limestone bricks. The students planted several hundred plants, which will attract helpful insects using both color and scent. The students also worked to clean up and plant new plants in the existing prayer garden. Pictured: Sam Crossley, Emily Raymond, Heather Falkner, Diane Beckham, Megan Haley PlummerJensen says, “Biology student Emily Raymond, who was involved in the planting, will be working at BCBA this summer and will continue to check on the growth progress and health of the butterfly garden.” Jensen says the project will be ongoing. “Several students and I plan to go out during the fall semester to replant as needed and to continue with additional phases of the butterfly garden.” One additional part of the project is to provide BCBA with educational materials regarding the garden. Jensen says, “These materials will include the common and scientific names of plants that were used. Information will also be provided on which butterflies and other insects will visit the plants used in the garden and the importance of these insects as plant pollinators.”Now, Searcy has another project in mind for the HSU biology and math students—to design a portion of the prayer garden to attract hummingbirds as well. Jensen says, “We plan to implement the hummingbird portion of the garden in the spring 2011 semester.”

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