Saint Michael’s hosts an Earth Week extravaganza

May 2, 2024
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

The Patrick ’61 and Marcelle Leahy Center for the Environment led an Earth Week extravaganza for Saint Michael’s, giving the College community plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty.   

April 18 kicked off with mulching and cleanup in the Teaching Gardens and beyond as well as flower pressing in the MakerSpace. Professor of Fine Arts, Brian Collier, worked with his Art and Ecology class to build a Spiral Garden on campus, which is a native, pollinator, spiral, sculptural garden. On April 19, volunteers visited the Farm at Saint Michael’s to help transplant onions and enjoy a farm-fresh salad. Earth Week films were offered nightly. EarthFest took place on campus on April 21 and included music powered by the Vermont Solar Bus, food, and celebration. The annual Bioblitz award was presented on April 30. 

See a photo gallery from EarthFest 2024 by Sophie Burt ’26

EarthFest 2024

“It is a privilege to work with students and colleagues across an institution to reflect upon, assess, and act on key behaviors that we must actively model and steward to achieve the level of climate mitigation work we need to accomplish,” Kristyn Achilich said, who is the Director of the Center for the Environment and Instructor of Environmental Studies and Sciences.  

Achilich said the Center has built their program to span a number of high-priority areas of environmental focus that include environmental education, environmental analysis, farm and food, ecological restoration, and sustainability. Achilich said the Center’s approach pairs well with a liberal arts foundation and hinges on research, contemplation, and action. 

During the creation of the Spiral Garden on Thursday, sophomore Lyla Rouleau ’27 said Saint Michael’s is “super inclusive about our sustainability and environmentalism. As an Environmental Studies major, I’m offered so many opportunities to get involved and get my hands dirty.” 

The Farm at Saint Michael’s

Collier explained that his students were recreating the Spiral Garden in the center of campus from its original location near Sloane Art Center, which was on a piece of land the College recently sold. The original Spiral Garden was created in 2014 by Collier’s Art and Ecology class.

The tree sculpture was made by Martha McElroy ‘16, a former art student at Saint Michael’s, who welded the tree. The class transported the original tree and harvested a bunch of native plants from the original sculpture. Achilich devised the idea to move the sculpture to the main campus, which paired perfectly with Collier’s Art and Ecology class’s final project. 

“Their final project is something that has a direct manifest of something that will have an impact on campus,” Collier said.  

The group received Vanderheyden funding to buy the materials. 

“The idea is, it’s a native pollinator spiral, sculptural garden. It’s going to be a feature for this part of campus to build upon the native pollinator there and the tree nursery,” Collier said. 

See a photo gallery of the Spiral Garden by Cat Cutillo

Collier explained his Art and Ecology class is both an Art and Design class and an Environmental Studies class. He said a few years ago, he and his students started a native plant nursery in Sloane Art Center and grow 200 to 300 plants there annually that they disperse through campus. 

“We have multiple art and ecology sites all over campus that have ecological function, but they also have some design work and artwork,” Collier said. Among these examples include sculptural bat houses, an old bus stop that’s been reimagined as a plant area, and an old fountain that’s been planted with native plants “really enhancing the pro-ecological profile of the campus.” 

Achilich said, “While today is a day to celebrate with clear attention and intention, everyday requires this work. The Center for the Environment has and continues to work across campus divisions and disciplines to build opportunities for each program to see today’s eco-social challenges as a call to action, daily. Regular, tangible, and small engagements make change. We seek to be a lighthouse for not only the change, but also our approach.” 

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