MADISON, WI (SPECTRUM NEWS) — A Wisconsin-based nonprofit is working with schools in the midwest to help give pollinators habitats.

The Sand County Foundation gives tiny seedlings of native pollinator plants as well as $1,000 to cover costs of growing and planting them to grant winners. This year there were 28 grant winners and over the pst three years there have been 63.

“One of the main reasons for the decline in these insect pollinators is loss of habitat,” said Criag Ficenec, a program director with the Sand County Foundation. “One of the most important types of habitat is the native wildflowers that we see in prairie ecosystems.”

The grant focuses on high school agriculture and science programs. Educators tell Sand County Foundation where they would plant them and how in the application process. Sand County Foundation prefers programs work with local farmers to find space, but said that is not a requirement.

“As students are considering careers in agriculture, this can help them experience different types of roles that they can play in agriculture in the future,” Ficenec said.

This year grants were awarded before the coronavirus pandemic. The Sand County Foundation gave educators the option of declining the grant for this year as a result, but most of them carried on as planned.

“We need to be flexible given the circumstances and we're just happy with the way teachers are finding ways to make it work one way or another,” Ficenec said.

One of the grant recipients who continued on with the pollinating plan was Ann Perry, a teacher leader with SOAR Charter High School in Eagle River Wisconsin.

Perry has a student interested in pollinators, that student is friends with her daughter and the three of them planted the flowers in Perry's living room.

“In the world of COVID it's been very awkward,” Perry said.

The plants are now finishing growing — under special lights on shelves in Perry's house still.

“We've got this pink purple glow every single day in our house for 10 to 12 hours a day,” Perry said.

The flowers will be planted soon, partially on the school's campus and partially in school forest areas near crop fields.

Perry said pollinators are something her student is very passionate about, and continuing the program in amended circumstances provides just another lesson on top of the grant program.

“We're always telling our students learning doesn't happen inside four walls, it's every day all day it doesn't go by the clock, so it really fits our philosophy at soar high school,” Perry said.

Ficenec loves hearing the stories of educators and grant recipients keeping the program going. He said not only is it good education for people interested in science or agriculture fields, but it also helps out bees, butterflies and other insects.

“A little bit of habitat can go a long way,” Ficenec said.

You can learn more about the Sand County Foundation on its website: