Here’s something new for the Detroit Lakes community to ‘bee’ proud of—a cute, colorful mural all about insects, plants and the importance of pollination, and featuring the artwork of local kids.
The culmination of a summer-long program involving Becker County 4-H and Laker Prep, as well as a few other community partners, the mural was unveiled at a small celebration on Wednesday, July 21. Local 4-H members were there, along with Laker Prep preschoolers and their families, to clap and cheer as the big curtain that had covered the mural was dropped, revealing the fun scene underneath.
Informally dubbed the “4-H and Laker Prep Pollinator Mural,” the painting spans a side of the storage building at the Community Garden. It features original artwork by kids from Laker Prep Preschool and was the brainchild of three local eighth-grade students, Julian Jiminez, Alonna Moench and Brody Foster, who are all Pollinator Ambassadors with Becker County 4-H.
Leigh Nelson, the Extension educator for 4-H Youth Development, used a computer program to help the ambassadors design the mural. They incorporated on-paper drawings of bugs and plants that the preschoolers had made earlier in the summer. That digital design was then enlarged and painted onto the building by the ambassadors, with a little help from the kids at Laker Prep.
“It was a really cool thing that started with a little idea and became a big thing,” said Mary Rotter, who owns Laker Prep with her husband, Eric. “The beauty of it was, it was the idea of those ambassadors -- they wanted to do that -- and Leigh (Nelson) is very artistic and has great vision, and then Margaret (Skogmo) and the other teachers at Laker Prep just embraced getting the kids involved, so it was an all-around collaborative project. Anything that we can bring to the community, that everyone can share in, is a great idea, in my opinion.”
“It was a team effort,” said Skogmo, the lead teacher at Laker Prep Preschool (Laker Prep also has another preschool class at its nearby Early Childhood Center). “And how cool for those kids to, in 10 years, go back and see some of their art displayed. Leigh (Nelson) stayed so true to what the kids drew… so it’s really, authentically, their artwork.”
Skogmo said the mural project evolved organically out of Laker Prep's summer partnership with 4-H, and described it as "a really, really cool" product of that partnership. The preschool had recently adopted the national Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' “Growing Up WILD” curriculum, which emphasizes hands-on environmental education for early learners, and the 4-H pollinator programming fit into that really well, she said.
The three 4-H Pollinator Ambassadors have been regularly visiting Laker Prep since early June to teach the preschoolers about the positive impacts of pollinators and native plants. They've been leading the kids in related crafts and activities and helping them establish a pollinator garden behind the preschool building. They’ve also been meeting with young kids at the Detroit Lakes Boys & Girls Club to conduct similar lessons and create another pollinator garden there.
“Through gardening and other activities, youth learned to understand the importance of pollination and how pollination ultimately impacts our food sources,” said Nelson. “The teens not only learned about pollinators, but they also employed valuable leadership skills throughout the program... This was a great example of youth-teaching-youth.”
The programming was funded by a grant as part of the statewide 4-H Pollinator Ambassador Program, a partnership with Corteva Agriscience.
Rotter said Laker Prep plans to continue its "Growing Up WILD" and pollinator programming next summer, and there’s a possibility of doing another mural then, too.
“Art instills a sense of pride within youth -- and community art instills a sense of belonging in one's community,” said Nelson. “I am so proud of the teens and all of the youth.”
Nelson called the mural “a true community project,” involving not only 4-H and Laker Prep but also the Detroit Lakes Parks and Recreation Department and local master gardeners, who oversee the Community Garden. The garden is located on 11th Avenue SE, across from the Snappy plant in the city’s Industrial Park.