In 2021 Red Mountain Garden Club reached out to The Garden Club of America through its Partners 4 Plants (P4P) grant program under the Civic Improvement and Grants Resource Committee, requesting help with the development of the Audubon-Datnow Preserve at Putnam Middle School in Birmingham, Alabama.  The Alabama Audubon and Putnam Middle School had teamed up together to build a unique learning experience for their school children and their community.  This smallish inner-city public middle-school is located within the city of Birmingham, but its campus is home to a surprisingly rich, mature, pine-hardwood forest hosting a diverse array of bird species, including White eyed Vireos, Barred Owls, and climate-endangered Brown-headed Nuthatches.  The Alabama Audubon began an effort to restore this neglected native habitat, by removing invasive-plants and improving its infrastructure with trail maintenance and interpretive signage.  Then they began reintroducing native plants to the site and providing for their stewardship.


Alabama Audubon has been able to establish, enhance, and manage over an acre of this pollinator prairie using native Alabama wildflowers, and the site now proudly serves as an on-site teaching resource for classes in the sciences (biology, ecology) and the liberal arts (art, creative writing) as well.  The larger area now includes an outdoor classroom in the woods, as well as a living demonstration space. Because scarce resources limit the ability of these students to travel easily for field trips, Putnam students, parents, and teachers use these areas to study, in a hands-on fashion, learning how native plants benefit birds and the larger ecosystems in which we all live and highlighting the value of native plants for our birds, and for the people who call this community home.


Alabama Audubon partners with two area educational non-profits at Putnam Middle School: The Jones Valley Teaching Forum which works to teach children about gardening and healthy foods and Dessert Island Supply Co. which works to integrate poetry and creative writing into the public-school curricula.  Red Mountain Garden Club was proud to join with the Alabama Audubon 3 years ago to further support them in their efforts.  After sending a grant proposal to GCA’s Partners-4-Plants we were delighted to be awarded the maximum grant amount for this project totaling $6000. The grant awarded was $2500 in year one (2021), followed by $3000 in 2022, and $500 for the final year in 2023.  The grant limits the total award amount to $6000 over a three-year period. However, we can revisit this wonderful GCA program for possible additional grant requests after sitting-out for a year.


The money awarded through the P4P grant was used to purchase over 1500 native plants encompassing over 20 different species, along with some necessary tools and supplies. Many additional plants were also provided from local gardeners!  Members of the RMGC along with Audubon volunteers have been gathering each fall to plant and clean the area – it has become a favorite active participation event for our club.  The importance that native plant life can offer to the birds and bees, the ability for these students to learn first-hand directly from nature, in turn contributes to their own health and the health of our environment.


It has been a privilege for Red Mountain Garden Club to work with the Alabama Audubon, and the Putnam community to both gain and share knowledge of the many benefits that a partnership can bring to all players. It continues to be a wonderful life-lesson of cooperation for all involved.