Sustainability

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Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve 

Pronunciation: (blee-then-thal)

 

About

The Herbert Bluethenthal Memorial Wildflower Preserve is a 10-acre forest located in the center of the University of North Carolina Wilmington's campus (Archives, 2017). This preserve contains a higher diversity of native plants than anywhere else on campus (Hayes, 2011). It was established not only to protect this ecologically important area, but also to aide in the education of UNCW students and the surrounding community. So, come stroll along the trails and discover the plants and animals that make this forest their home.


 Importance of Green Space in Urban Environments

At a rapidly expanding university such as UNCW, protecting the natural areas of campus is a crucial step towards a healthy educational environment. Progress that is necessary to accommodate a growing student population such as new roads, parking lots and buildings can often take precedence over green spaces. 

College is a stressful time for many students academically, socially and financially. Studies have revealed that the amount of stress students feel can be linked to the physical environment of their university. This means that a balance between progress and preservation is important for student success. This refers specifically to how interactions with plants and nature have many positive mental and physical effects on student lives (McFarland, 2007). Being able to take a walk through the woods is a great way to relieve stress. 

Active interactions with nature such as planting trees can “…quicken healing times, reduce stress, improve cognitive functioning and psychological health...is associated with stronger social ties, sense of safety, and reduced crime (Krasney & Delia, 2015).” Here at UNCW, the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve has been a wonderful place for students to actively engage with nature. Many opportunities for students to participate in cleanups and plantings occur each year. For example, every spring Venus Flytraps are planted in the flowerbeds by students.  

 Planting

The Student Government Association Day of Service on October 4th2019 was dedicated to cleaning up the preserve.

 SGACleanup

These environmental stewardship opportunities create a more appealing campus environment while also helping to increase student health and well-being (Krasney, 2015). 

Even passive interactions with nature such as being near or observing plants has positive effects on overall life satisfaction (McFarland, 2007). Just looking at plants can help to reduce stress levels, so having a higher density of plants on campus is beneficial. Bluethenthal provides 10 acres of native flora for students to interact with. The next time you’re feeling stressed, take a walk through Bluethenthal and enjoy this naturally calming environment.

Campus as a Living Laboratory

            The UNCW campus actively holds Arboretum status with a dedication to educating the student body and surrounding communities about native flora (Hayes, 2011). Many of the classes taught here at UNCW utilize the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve as a tool for hands-on learning. Students can be found measuring tree heights, taking soil samples, or identifying plants and animals among the forest.

            This outdoor classroom, which overlooks the pond, is another example of turning the preserve into an educational tool. Classes meet here to study the natural environment around them, or to enjoy the outdoors as they learn.

OutdoorClassroom