Butterfly Gardening

Growing a butterfly garden is a multifaceted delight. It also serves the planet. Butterflies pollinate a wide range of plants. Caterpillars transform leaves into food for birds, frogs, lizards, mice and countless other creatures. With residential and industrial development rapidly consuming open land, home habitat gardening has taken on new urgency.

Monarch Magic

Just came from a great meeting at Merry Oaks International Academy, where I’ll be starting a Monarch tagging program this fall. Tagging and releasing Monarch butterflies has always been one of my favorite school-based activities, and I can’t wait to start. Merry Oaks, Winterfield, Shamrock, and both sites of ourBRIDGE for Kids will be participating.


The Polyphemus cats have moved into their next instar! Caterpillars pass through five stages of growth, called instars. They enter each new stage by shedding their old skins. Caterpillars often stop eating a day or so before shedding. They use silk to attach their rear ends to leaves or twigs. They puff themselves up to…

Polyphemus 2023

I thought I was done with Polyphemus moths when the past spring’s group didn’t end up producing any offspring. I was wrong. Last fall, students in a friend’s preschool class found a caterpillar at their school. It made a cocoon and stayed in it all winter. Two weeks ago, a beautiful Polyphemus emerged – a…

Moms on the Loose: Pam & Carol meet DFER

Diane Ravitch’s headline said it all. Two Moms Terrify DFER, Students First. If someone had asked you to describe the pair of women standing in bemusement at the corner of First and Tryon on Tuesday afternoon, I doubt that “terrifying” would have come to mind. True, our pencils were quite large, but they were made…

Pam & Carol’s Excellent DNC Adventure

When the Democratic National Convention rolled into town 10 years ago, Carol Sawyer and I decided to do a little lobbying. We were involved in MecklenburgACTS, a local school advocacy organization dedicated to the idea that all students, regardless of background, deserved a rich and equitable education. Back then we spent a lot of time…

Polyphemus cats!

In past years, we’ve raised Luna moths at Shamrock. This year, after the discovery of a mated Polyphemus pair here in Plaza Midwood, we may switch to Polyphemus. Like Lunas, Polyphemous moths are some of the biggest moths around. They don’t look much like Lunas, but their caterpillars follow the same growth patterns. So if…

Adventures in Bureaucracy: Bradford Pears

The crazed, broken trunks of dying Bradford pear trees emerge from the ground at awkward angles, like wraiths struggling to rise from ancient graves. I’m standing at the corner of Anne Street and Country Club Drive, looking through the trees at the bustling construction site where the new Shamrock Gardens Elementary is slowly taking form….

New projects ahead

2020 was quite a year for Shamrock. First, of course, came the pandemic. Then staff and students were moved (virtually at first) to Lincoln Heights, while bulldozers descended on our school. A brand-new Shamrock should be ready to welcome students in the fall of 2022. It’s hard to say good-by to a beloved building, a…

CMS Eats @ Home: Ordering and Donation

Thanks to all the Shamrock families who have donated and delivered “CMS Eats at Home” meal bundles to OurBridge for Kids. Our families have played a big role in helping OurBridge deliver more than 2,000 meal bundles to families who needed them – and helping CMS food service workers keep their jobs. Great work, everyone….