Planting Seeds of Change: Inspiring Young Minds with Pollinator Gardens
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Planting Seeds of Change: Inspiring Young Minds with Pollinator Gardens

The Climate Leaders Fellowship empowers students with knowledge about climate change and environmental sustainability. The program, a partnership between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation, not only educates teens but supports the development and implementation of volunteer projects in their local communities.

Learn about Gavin’s inspiring story!

Gavin Luengthada
Age 14
New York City, New York

My name is Gavin and I am 14 years old. I was born in Bangkok, Thailand and currently live in New York City, where I am a high school freshman. I have strong interests in engineering, marine biology and conservation. Apart from these interests, I also enjoy playing the cello, composing music, and playing tennis.

I first participated in the Climate Leaders Fellowship in spring 2023, and for my conservation project then, I learned about how the migratory monarch butterfly is now an endangered species. This is primarily because climate change is affecting the growth and quality of milkweed, the plant that migratory monarch butterflies lay their eggs on and whose nectar they use to refuel. I therefore decided to plant milkweed at my school to help offset this habitat loss.

As a Senior Fellow in the Climate Leaders Fellowship in fall 2023, I wanted to expand my initial project beyond my own school to my local community. I believe it is important to start educating children about climate change at a young age, so that the choices they make as they grow older naturally take climate issues into consideration.

For this reason, I reached out to the science teacher at my local elementary school (my old science teacher in fact) to see if she would be interested in planting milkweed at her school. She had been thinking about planting a pollinator garden, so it was perfect timing.

She was forming a club for interested third graders and my role was to create an age appropriate slideshow for the children to inform them about pollinators and pollination and the detrimental effects on pollinator habitats from climate change and humans.

At the same time, I would help teach them how we can try to mitigate these negative effects by planting a pollinator garden and educating them on plants suitable for where we live, the Northeast.

I have coordinated with the science teacher and have completed my slideshow and am looking forward to working with the children in the spring when the weather warms to plant the garden with them.

The biggest challenge in the first part of my project, preparing the slideshow, was to ensure that it was appropriate for its audience, about ten third graders who are mostly eight and nine year olds. I wanted the presentation to be informative but easily understandable, and for this reason, I tried to include some videos.

I hope that this project is successful and that the children will enjoy sowing the seeds in the spring and watching the plants grow and the pollinators visit. Once the plants start growing, we will take data on how big the plants get and also which pollinators we observe visiting. If it is successful, and monarch butterflies come, then the school may be able to apply to be a Monarch Waystation.

I enjoyed participating in the Climate Leaders Fellowship again this past fall because it allowed me to share my project with fellow students who also care about the environment and discuss climate issues. I look forward to continuing my participation in the Climate Leaders Fellowship and hopefully inspiring other participants to create pollinator gardens in their own communities and possibly expanding this project to other elementary schools.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.