Tuesday, August 30, 2022

POLLINATORS! The Musical Coming To Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, State College Sept. 11

By Alexandra McLaughlin,
Penn State News

Penn State Extension Master Gardeners from Centre County recently debuted “POLLINATORS! The Musical,” a 30-minute production aimed at providing pollinator education in a fun and catchy way.

An upcoming performance at the “Monarchs at the Marsh” event on Sunday, Sept. 11, will feature two shows — at 1 and 3 p.m. — at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in State College. 

This free educational event will include monarch tagging and other activities between the shows.

Bees and other pollinators help ensure food security, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Supporting pollinators is a major goal of the Master Gardeners, who take action by planting pollinator-friendly gardens and providing education for the gardening public.

The musical was spearheaded by Lisa Schneider, Doug Ford and Pam Ford, Master Gardeners who volunteer at the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden, located in Tom Tudek Memorial Park in State College.

“As a child, I always learned best when facts were disguised in stories and songs, so I wanted to do something similar with pollinators as a theme,” said Schneider. “I had begun with some ideas in 2019, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we really got rolling. It was our ‘pandemic project’ — something fun and positive to focus on during uncertain times.”

Each song is a musical parody of a familiar tune, such as in well-known musical theater hits. 

“They’re linked by dialogue that highlights the life cycle and habits of different pollinators and the process of pollination itself,” Schneider said.

Honey bees often come to mind when people think of pollinators, but the Master Gardeners wanted to emphasize the diversity of pollinators — from bees to butterflies to hummingbirds.

The three Master Gardeners share a musical theater background — Schneider as a musician and the Fords as scenic designers.

“Lisa’s amazingly clever writing is what makes the whole thing,” said Pam Ford. “The dialogue appeals to adults as well as children. There’s tongue in cheek and hilarious lyrics.”

Since the Centre County Master Gardeners already owned some puppets, Schneider said they decided to create a puppet show — in the spirit of “The Muppet Show” — with several live guests.

From idea to performance, the puppet show took nearly 2 1/2 years to bring to life. Schneider wrote the lyrics and dialogue, the Fords designed and constructed the set, and 12 other Snetsinger Butterfly Garden team members performed or built additional puppets and props. 

On top of that, family members from across the country supported the project by recording or producing the music and dialogue. The Fords’ grandchildren voiced some of the characters.

“They will never forget that their whole lives,” Pam Ford said. “It was a pandemic, and they’re recording a musical.”

The show premiered in June during National Pollinator Week. 

The Center for Pollinator Research, housed in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, held a “Pollination Celebration” in The Arboretum at Penn State, during which the Master Gardeners held two performances.

The Millbrook Marsh event in September is aimed at raising awareness about monarch habitat and migration, including ideas for creating monarch habitats in backyards.

“Monarchs — we like to call them the gateway insects,” Pam Ford said. “People start with monarchs, and then it opens the door to interest in other pollinators.”

In addition to the September event at Millbrook Marsh, another performance is lined up for June 2023, during an international conference hosted by the Center for Pollinator Research.

“I hope the audience will remember that pollinators are our friends,” Schneider said. “We don’t have to be afraid and squash every insect we see. They have stories, too.”

The show includes nine musical numbers. Pam Ford hopes that audiences will walk away understanding the interrelationship between pollinators and their habitat needs. 

“We’re all part of the same ecosystem, and the roles pollinators play are essential to human life,” she said.

For Schneider, the most enjoyable part of the process was hearing the audience laugh. “If they’re laughing, they’re getting the message,” she said.

People singing the songs when leaving a performance is also an indication that the message has been absorbed, noted Molly Sturniolo, Master Gardener coordinator for Penn State Extension in Centre County.

“‘POLLINATORS! The Musical’ is a unique experience, for both youth and adults, to be entertained and to learn about pollinators simultaneously,” Sturniolo said. “The audience reactions are a tribute to the initiative and creativity that these Master Gardener volunteers have brought to their passion for educating the public about pollinators.”

[Visit the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners webpage to learn more about this program in your county.]

(Reprinted from Penn State News.)

Related Articles:

-- DCNR “Let It Grow!” Musical Video

-- Study Suggests One-Third Of Wild Bee Species In PA Have Declined; Bee Diversity Can Help Conserve Pollinators - By Chuck Gill, Penn State News  [PaEN]

-- Agriculture, DCNR Celebrate Honey Bee Day, Aug. 20; Bees Play A Critical Role In Food Production, Biodiversity

[Posted: August 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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