Who doesn’t like free honey?
At the annual Pollination Celebration last summer at Metro’s Howell Territorial Park, children clamored to sample honey from buckwheat, clover, blackberry and raspberry. As the children enjoyed the sweet treat, two volunteers explained more about pollinators and their habitats, connecting the dots between food and nature.
“I like the educational side of it,” said Jocelyn Bourgault, who brought her daughter, Josephine. “We want to make sure they understand why we love honey and pollinators.”
The popular summer event is just one of the programs organized by the nonprofit Sauvie Island Center, which is based at Howell through a partnership with Metro. The center started in 2005 to provide elementary school students opportunities to explore a working farm and to learn more about where food comes from.
Unlike most urban parks, Howell features a public fruit orchard and 20 acres in active farming. Sauvie Island Organics, a community-supported agriculture farm, leases 18 acres. Another two acres are farmed by participants in Food Works, an employment program for low-income North Portland youths run by the nonprofit Janus Youth Programs.
The Sauvie Island Center’s popular programs include school field trip and summer farm camps, which allow students to learn more about food webs, seeds, pollinators, soil and plant parts. For hands-on learning, the students simply walk over to the fields of Sauvie Island Organics, whose founder, Shari Raider, also created the center.
“For kids to pull a carrot out of the ground and taste it is a different experience than getting it out of the bag,” said Anna Goldrich, the center’s executive director. “Getting kids outdoors has multiple benefits for brain development.”
Back at the Pollination Celebration, Bourgault, Josephine and some family friends learned a waggle dance, which bees use to communicate with each other. The children shook their bellies and arms while dancing in a small circle.
At the next station, near a pollinator hedgerow, the children ran to gather balls of pretend nectar and pollen.
“I think it’s such a cool idea to have such a mixed use for this space,” Bourgault said. “I think it’s important that it can be a farm, and we’ve come here and picked apples in the fall. Sauvie Island is such a treasure, and it needs to be taken care of.”