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Thurston Nature Center installs new features for Ann Arbor Public Schools Saturday

Butterflies and frogs might find Ann Arbor's Thurston Nature Center more inhabitable after volunteers worked Saturday to install two new gardens to attract more diverse wildlife.

The Thurston Nature Center's Annual Fall Stewardship-Workday brought Thurston Elementary School staff, parents and children together with employees from the Toyota Technical Center and the nature center to work on various projects that will benefit Thurston Elementary.

Natasha York, principal at Thurston Elementary, said the nature center, off Yorktown Drive on Ann Arbor northeast side, has been used since its inception 50 years ago as an outdoor educational center for the school.

With the new gardens and vine trellis, she said, hummingbirds, butterflies and amphibians should begin to frequent the nature center and allow for new teaching opportunities.

Saturday's projects will continue to support Thurston Elementary's Green STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum, York said.

"Our Green STEAM initiative is to enhance the bio-diversity of the Thurston Nature Center," York said. "This new initiative will help to support our Common Core Science standards and support our instructional staff while providing students with new outdoor experiences."

A spin-off of Ann Arbor Public Schools' original STEAM initiative, Green STEAM lessons focus on ecology and environmental education.

"We have focused our efforts on our natural habitats and resources to provide community and students with new and rich experiences," York said. "The intent of our program is to expose students to nature and its connections to science, technology, engineering, art and math."

Two gardens, which York called "rain gardens", are habitats for native plants attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies as well as other plants that require pollination.

A trellis, a wooden structure used to support vine growth, was also built.

The new habitats will be observed and maintained by the students at Thurston Elementary, York said.

"This project will continue throughout the school year as each of our grade levels will be responsible for various jobs and duties that will help to sustain and maintain these habitats," she said. "As this project takes flight we are intent on expanding student understanding and creating additional activities that will support and enhance student learning opportunities and understanding."

Volunteers also worked on some of the trails in the nature center Saturday.

The Thurston Nature Center celebrates its 50-year anniversary with its annual Fall Festival Sunday.

For more information see the mlive article here.