Students at St. Viator School in Chicago just wrapped up a hands-on project that will serve the parish community — and the environment — for years to come: They planted a pollinator garden.

Led by parishioner Jeremy Ohmes, who obtained a Schoolyard Habitat grant from the Department of Natural Resources in Illinois, the project involved first through fifth graders and combined being good stewards of the environment with STEM activities.

Mr. Jeremy Ohmes describes the importance of pollinators to students.

Why a pollinator garden?

“They support biodiversity and provide food and habitat for butterflies, birds, bees, insects, and other species who have evolved interdependent relationships with these plants over time and who are struggling as their ecosystems change dramatically,” says Mr. Ohmes, who owns Wild World Gardens in Chicago, which promotes creating gardens for habitat, health and healing.

Before the digging started, fourth graders did soil analysis, testing the pH levels and basic soil nutrients, while fifth graders created digital garden maps. Planting took place over two days, with classes rotating in and out of the building to plant their sections.

The grant required that its funds be used for native Illinois pollinator plants. Consequently, Mr. Ohmes and the students chose plants that will grow to different heights, bloom during different seasons, and attract a wide variety of pollinators. This biodiversity will help ensure the garden’s success, they reasoned.

Now fully installed, the garden consists of perennial Illinois native plants that attract butterflies, bees, and other important pollinating insects.

Students and their families plan to tend the garden throughout the summer and watch it take root. In planting the garden, these St. Viator students join with other gardeners at Viatorian institutions, including St. Viator Parish School in Las Vegas, St. George and Maternity BVM parishes, both in Bourbonnais; Viator House of Hospitality and on the grounds of the Viatorian Province Center itself.

Together, they stand in solidarity with Pope Francis, who described an “integral ecology” in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ On the Care of Our Common Home, that to “protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development.”