SANDS Preschool Decatur, Georgia

Explain how your project will benefit butterflies and the community.

Our preschool stands on a busy intersection in Decatur, GA. One by one over the last five years, the neighborhoods and urban forest on the three other corners have been bulldozed to make way for apartments, shops, and restaurants. Our acre of forest, garden, and church remains. We started
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dreaming of ways our entire community – old and new neighbors of all ages and abilities – can benefit from our garden space we call The Woods. The preschool met with church leaders, including the Trustees, the Green Team, and church gardeners. We then hired Shades of Green Permaculture to develop the garden plan. The plan includes urban reforestation to beautify our neighborhood, a pollinator garden, a certified butterfly garden, native species, and edible garden plants. The Woods will be completely accessible for individuals with mobility concerns. It will be open to our homeless neighbors to glean food, as they do from our current garden. Our current garden is a vital part of our preschool and community. About 20% of our students live in apartments and have limited access to outdoor recreation. 20% of our students are from immigrant communities, and our number of LGBTQ and minority families is highly representative of Decatur. All of our children live in an urban environment. Here at SAND they are able to spend at least 15 hours a week outside, engaging in nature, and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of outdoor play. Our hope is to extend this education and engagement with nature to the whole community.
As described below, The Woods project will create a natural wetlands area, community gathering space, meditation nooks, a butterfly and pollinator garden, edible garden, and urban forest. Specifically, the butterfly garden will benefit butterflies by providing all of the nectar plants, host plants, water sources, shrubs, and other habitat needs of butterflies. Nectar plants will include azalea, native honeysuckle, cardinal flower, and coneflower. Host plants will include butterfly milkweed, native pawpaws, parsley, dill, fennel, red maples, and swamp milkweed. Water sources will be provided through the water catchment system and our existing garden water feature. Bushes and shrubs will include star anise, beach plum, blueberries, fragrant tea olives, beauty berry, and oakleaf hydrangeas. We are using all native species, untreated plants that will remain untreated in our organic garden, and taking into consideration scent, color, and attracting other pollinators (like bees and ladybugs). We plan to become a Certified Pollinator Garden, a member of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, and a Monarch Way Station. We hope to attract Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Cloudless Sulpher, Gulf Fritillary, Painted Lady, and many more species.

Detail your project and fundraiser.

The existing landscape of The Woods presented a real challenge: roughly 120 x 160 feet, it is a gulch surrounded by a major road, a parking lot, buildings, and walkways. To address concerns about water runoff and soil erosion, the garden is designed with a rain garden at the top of the hill and a natural wetlands in the basin. Hardscapes break up the slope and divert runoff into catchment systems. On the steepest slope along the major road, large fieldstone boulders at staggered heights help retain the slope. At the garden entry a flagstone path leads to two stone terraces. The center of the plot is designed for open community gatherings. The pathways will have sitting nooks and meditation spaces. The entire garden plan aims to create a feeling of “rooms” and designed spaces that can be used by various members of community, ie. a mix of contemplative and play spaces.
All plants will be native perennials, and there will be a mix of fruit-bearing edibles, native pollinators, and plants that will aid soil development and the health of existing trees. Some examples of plants that will be installed are redbud and serviceberry trees, blueberry, muscadine, ferns, beautyberry, coneflowers, butterfly milkweed, and alpine strawberries. Our existing garden and natural space is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and with this expansion of The Woods, we will seek certification as a Pollinator Garden and part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail. We are already adept at sustaining a viable garden, as our existing edible garden and play area have been flourishing since 2014. We employ a Garden Coordinator to care for the garden and plan educational engagement programs for children. This position and ongoing garden upkeep are in the
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school’s annual budget, funded by tuition payments. Fundraising for the expansion of The Woods has begun. We have already raised $10,000 for the garden design which completes Phase One. In-kind and at-cost donations of our water storage cisterns have jump-started Phase Two with a cost savings of $5,700. Future fundraising plans, in addition to seeking grants such as this, include sponsor-a-plant opportunities for individuals to donate to the cost of the plants themselves projected to raise over $3,000, and two preschool fundraising events – silent auctions – in the fall of 2019 and 2020 which are projected to raise $10,000 to $12,000 each year. After the first three years of fundraising and garden installation, The Woods will be completely selfsustaining through our annual budget. We have chosen hardy, native perennials suited to the soil conditions, and a rain water catchment system that will require minimal maintenance and provide self-sustaining irrigation. Major long term funding will not be required and The Woods will be viable for many years to come. Your gift today will have a lasting impact.