Not too long ago, a gaggle of kids gathered on a rug—a magical rug, in fact, that helps occupants listen better. The Pollinator Patrol Club was in session at the Staatsburg Library to learn about the birds and the bees and other creatures who make food, trees and flowers grow. “Pollinator is a big, big, long word,” Candace Gallagher said to her coterie, some sitting in their mom or dad’s lap. “But it’s super-duper important.” Behind her, displays of bees (dead, fuzzy and, most importantly, touchable) were just within reach, along with honeycomb-filled drawers from hives, and extracted honeycombs oozing their sticky sweetness through a colander. Montessori has nothing on this set up.
Candace works for The Farm at Norrie State Park, just up the road from the library. She started the Pollinator Patrol Club “to encourage learners of all ages to become engaged with nature and learn the importance of all pollinators everywhere,” she says. PPC headquarters is in a beautiful weathered barn, hung with fairy lights and home to a variety of creatures and their handicrafts, including an intact praying mantis nest found on a recent walk through the Farm’s pollinator garden.
Candace’s classes include Bee Yoga (imagine small people buzzing around and alighting in apian-asanas), and guided hikes through the pollinator garden, a wild looking and nurturing habitat, generally closed to the public, which she helped plant two years ago. The invite-only walks wind by a series of managed beehives and through stretches named Pollinator Lane and Goldenrod Forest. When the goldenrod blooms, the kids are encouraged to enter the thicket like a fort. “We put a blanket down and encourage them to just sit and watch,” she says. “If you’re quiet, it’s incredible how much comes to you and what you can see.” Even the trail’s scat gets scientific attention. The kids try to work out who may have left it, and identify the fur and berries in the dried mosaics.
Back on the magical rug, Candace holds up photos. There’s a snowberry clearwing moth, a hummingbird, an Eastern-eyed click beetle—an otherworldly creature who’d look just right at the controls of a spaceship. “Check out the size of those eyes!” says Candace. “Really cool, right?” Full audience agreement. Nobody’s put off by a bug in this crowd.
Hopefully in the near future when we can gather together again, Candace will get back to hosting PPC meetings and inspiring kids and their grownups with enthusiasm and appreciation for the myriad lives that surround us. The mother of two is a gifted teacher. “Pollen,” she explains to the Staatsberg posse, “is nature’s glitter.” Solemn nods all around.
Follow Candace and the PPC on Instagram @pollinatorpatrolclubmembers