Kenyan teens, U.S. youth team up with Saint Louis Zoo and Florissant community to design pollinator-friendly garden


The Saint Louis Zoo joins officials from the city of Florissant, the Florissant Community Garden Club, Gateway Greening and youth from St. Louis and from the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa, for an April 10 briefing on the design for an urban garden that is part of a year-long program involving 28 young people, age 17-22.

Arriving April 6, three students and two staff members from Kenya began visiting local St. Louis attractions and meeting with St. Louis youth.

Since October, youth from St. Louis, Nairobi and a third participating institution, Tohono Chul Park of Tucson, Ariz., have been learning about pollinators, sharing information and creating designs for pollinator gardens and pollinator habitat sculptures.  In all three locations, they have also been reaching out to residents of their urban communities to share messages about the importance of developing pollinator habitats within community gardens.

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Called PAUSE, Pollinators/Art/Urban Agriculture/Society/and the Environment, this nearly $200,000 project is being supported by a one-year $86,000 grant from Museums Connect (formerly Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad). Museums Connect is made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums.  The remaining costs will be shared by the Zoo and its project co-sponsors—the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi and Tohono Chul Park of Tucson, Ariz.

On April 10, the St. Louis and Kenyan PAUSE participants will check out a 3.5-acre urban garden site at 601 St. Charles Florissant, Mo.  They join other partners in unveiling the plans for this pollinator-friendly garden, which will include prairie habitat, a wildflower walk, historic and native American gardens, sculpture, an orchard and plants that attract pollinators.  The area will include a shared garden for local food banks, space dedicated to raised beds for folks in wheelchairs and to education programs and events.  Even the area under a nearby Ameren transmission line will be planted as a pollinator habitat.

Program partners expect PAUSE to foster an intergenerational dialogue with youth and to develop a cultural exchange between nations.

“This first-hand, cross-cultural exchange is providing many opportunities for Kenyan youth to experience two very different American environments, while U.S. students will gain valuable insight from their visit to Nairobi in June,” said Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the Saint Louis Zoo and director of the Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation.

Spevak said that PAUSE program sponsors believe in spreading the word among the next generation about the critical importance of honeybees, bumblebees and other insects, birds and small mammals that pollinate over 90 percent of the planet’s flowering plants and one third of all human food crops.

“Realizing the importance of these pollinators and of building urban gardens adds another dimension to current gardening practices,” he said. “More enlightened gardeners will increase garden productivity by attracting pollinators, and this will have a lasting impact on the urban landscape.”

While in St. Louis from April 6 through April 12, the Kenyan students are visiting local farmers’ markets to talk to growers about farming techniques and the importance of native pollinators. They are also learning about the importance of biodiversity in discussions with St. Louis-based conservation botanists and biologists.

In May, teams begin in earnest to plant their gardens and install art projects, and in June, students and staff from St. Louis and Tucson visit Kenya, where they will visit urban and community gardens and sculpture installations and participate in recognition celebrations.

Youth and the program sponsors have been communicating through Facebook, video conferencing and shared video clips.

The program also includes hands-on interaction and face-to-face discussions with local mentors and subject matter experts from academic institutions and urban farming and gardening organizations.


About National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi). The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is a state corporation established by an Act of Parliament, the National Museums and Heritage Act, 2006 no. 6 of 2006. NMK is a multi-disciplinary institution whose role is to collect, preserve, study, document and present Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage.  This is for the purposes of enhancing knowledge, appreciation, respect and sustainable utilization of these resources for the benefit of Kenya and the world, for now and posterity

About the Saint Louis Zoo. The Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. The Zoo attracts 3,000,000 visitors each year.

About the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute. Created in 2004 to bring together conservation initiatives under a single organization, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for wildlife and for people around the world.  The Institute and its 12 centers take a holistic approach to troubled ecosystems by addressing three key ingredients in conservation success: wildlife management and recovery, conservation science, and support of the human populations that coexist with wildlife. For more information, visit

About Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. Award-winning Tohono Chul Park is where nature, art and culture connect. Named one of the World’s Great Botanical Gardens by Travel + Leisure and listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 22 Secret Gardens in the U.S. and Canada, there is something for everyone. This oasis in the desert offers a respite from the hectic pace of daily life, provides an informative look at the region’s fascinating cultural traditions and it’s even more interesting flora and fauna.

About Gateway Greening, St, Louis. Gateway Greening is a non-profit organization that educates and empowers people to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture. Gateway Greening has been working to provide creative, grassroots solutions to urban problems since 1984. Programs include supporting more than 200 community and youth-focused gardens across the St. Louis area through educational opportunities, grants and technical assistance; urban beautification projects that enhance the downtown St. Louis urban landscape; and City Seeds Urban Farm, a 2.5 acre farm in downtown St. Louis that provides therapeutic horticulture and jobs training programs to individuals who are homeless and underserved.

About the American Association of Museums. The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. We are dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future.

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