Students dig deep to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators


Today, 5th graders from Franklin Elementary in Anoka made a positive difference in native northern eastern Minnesota habitats by planting harebell, pussytoes and long leaved-bluets around a new solar PV array at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.

With everything in place, the enthusiastic 5th graders headed outside, shovels in hand, and made a positive difference on the local landscape. The new flowers are planted in their new home, helping to ensure a diverse future for northwoods pollinators.



“We are digging the holes and getting some plants in so that hopefully next spring it will be a beautiful grass prairie,” said student Gabe Johnson, a student at Franklin Elementary.

“Wolf Ridge is one of the greatest places on the planet. They put together a great science and educational program up here. We’re in school, but it doesn’t feel like school. This is one way to connect the things you teach in class to the real world,” said Don Gawreluk, a 5th grade science and social studies teacher at Franklin Elementary.



A healthy population of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, is essential to sustaining the diverse forest and wetland communities of Wolf Ridge’s 2000-acre campus along Superior’s north shore. The harebell, pussytoes and long leaved-bluets plugs the students planted today will provide food and shelter for butterflies, native bees, birds and bats well into the future.

The White House recently released a pollinator strategy, calling for a nationwide effort to focus on declining pollinator populations. Even small projects that restore pollinator friendly habitat can go a long way toward saving and sustaining pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

Like pollinators that partner with native plants to create healthy natural ecosystems, today’s project was made possible by several organizations working together for the common good.

Great River Energy, a wholesale electric provider to 28 Minnesota member co-ops, provided funding for today’s project. “As a cooperative, Great River Energy has a unique opportunity to serve in our local communities,” said GRE representative Craig Poorker. “We do that through our environmental stewardship and our commitment to creating sustainable environments. Among electric utilities, Great River Energy is a leader in creating and maintaining pollinator friendly habitat.”

Jeff Stedman said Boreal Natives is dedicated to the important work of restoring the specialized native plant communities associated with the northern portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. They utilize locally grown native seed and plant materials in their projects.

“As many people know, populations of butterflies, bees and other pollinators have experienced a rapid decline in recent years,” Stedman said. “Much of the decline can be attributed to loss or degradation of habitat. These pollinators have co-evolved with our native plants so restoring native plantings wherever possible is essential. Each restoration, like the one occurring at Wolf Ridge, will help to provide the habitat needed by pollinators and other wildlife.”

Franklin Elementary’s trip to Wolf Ridge provided a perfect educational opportunity for the habitat improvement project. “At Wolf Ridge, our goal is to spark curiosity and to provide hands-on learning experiences,” said Pete Smerud, Wolf Ridge Executive Director. “In a world that seems to be plugged in 24/7, we believe it’s also important to show the next generation how to live sustainably and responsibly and learn through nature.”

Visitors are welcome to visit the pollinator habitat on the Wolf Ridge campus near Finland, MN. Stop by the office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday- Friday.