By Megan Keener
I first visited the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, as an undergraduate taking Dr. Connolly’s Native Peoples of North America class. I had heard about Volunteer Days at the museum and wanted to check them out. I was amazed at the diversity of opportunities and wanted to know more about the inner-workings of the museum. So when Dr. Connolly told the class about internships, I jumped at the opportunity. When I started my internship, I was asked about the kinds of projects I wanted to participate in. I immediately said anything outdoors, as our natural surroundings have always called to me. Chucalissa is a certified arboretum and has two gardens. The first is the Three Sisters Garden that contains corn, beans, and squash and the second is the Sinti Herb Garden. Soon I was paired with Glinda Watts, a local herbalist, and we broke ground on a third garden for sweetgrass, a native plant which has many uses in the Native American community. Glinda and I had a great time planting the sweetgrass and I knew that I wanted to continue gardening at the museum.
In the Spring Semester of 2011 I was appointed a Graduate Assistant at the Museum. Prior to my appointment, Dr. Connolly had mentioned the idea that Chucalissa could become a certified plant sanctuary. Over time we considered several ideas for a plant sanctuary, and decided on one for threatened and endangered species native to Tennessee. Once we decided on the plan, we needed funding for the project, so we began the grant writing process. Fortunately I had recently taken Dr. Luebbers’ Museums and Communities class at the University of Memphis which teaches grant writing among other things. Several grants applications later, we received $13,000 to create a sanctuary through the University of Memphis Green Fee award. We have now broken ground on the sanctuary.
Here at Chucalissa we have a fantastic group of dedicated volunteers that would be an integral part of the sanctuary. This wasn’t just going to be the Chucalissa Plant Sanctuary, it was going to be everyone’s plant sanctuary. Just last Saturday volunteers from the University of Memphis Service on Saturday put down stone ground cover for the sanctuary. Everyone who helps create the plant sanctuary will be able to come back and watch the future progress on the project as well. Three years from now, or even twenty years from now, people can come back and say ‘I helped to create this’. It’s great to be part of something larger than yourself, and to know you were a part of something that will be seen for generations to come. That is what we strive for at the C. H. Nash Museum – a sense of ownership within the community and volunteer base.
While applying for the sanctuary grants I found many resources. Environmental Education in Tennessee was a great resource not only for grants but also for ideas about outdoor activities. Every month they create a calendar of events for families to take part in. Their website lists a variety of small grant opportunities for teachers, students, and organizations. Another resource is the Children and Nature Network that lists many outdoor opportunities for families. So go ahead and check out these resources and see what is going on in the great outdoors!
Megan Keener, Graduate Assistant, C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa