Saint Viator senior Erin McDermott fondly remembers celebrating her birthday each year with her grandmother, who would come in from out of town and together they would plant a “birthday garden.”
“This annual tradition gave me a love of gardening,” Erin says. “I knew I wanted to plant some type of garden for my project.” Her project—planting a butterfly garden—is the capstone element of her Girl Scout Gold Award, which represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, and one that only five percent of active Girl Scouts achieve.
“When I started to research types of gardens that would benefit the environment, I learned about the diminishing number of monarch butterflies,” Erin adds. “I knew I had my project.”
According to Girl Scout guidelines, a Gold Award project must demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable “Take Action” projects. Saint Viator administrators point to Erin’s project as another example of what it means to be a Lion, as one who is inspired to serve the wider community and committed to a lifelong journey of learning and discovery.
Erin turned to a section of the Reed Turner Woodland and Nature Center in Long Grove for her project. The 40-acre preserve features a grove of mostly oak and hickory trees—for which the village of Long Grove was named—and borders Indian Creek. It is a popular spot for nature walks, with its abundant wildflowers, wooded paths and more than 100 types of birds spotted in the preserve.
However, the prairie area is always in need of restoration and in talking with its staff and Long Grove Park District officials, the preserve seemed like a good spot for a butterfly garden. Together with the staff and volunteers, Erin and her crew worked to clear the area of non-native and invasive species to make room for donated plants. The area was recently certified as a Monarch Way station and will provide host plants and nectar for monarchs for years to come.
Erin McDermotts butterfly garden and seating area were recognized during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Reed Turner Woodland and Nature Center in Long Grove this August.