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2016 Hull Award Winner Continues to Inspire Children


October 29, 2020

When you inspire a child, they will take care of the earth when we are gone.

While Maria Blakeslee was both surprised and honored to be a recipient of The Garden Club of America’s Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Award in 2016, she views this accolade as an obligation. “It is very important to teach children about our environment.” She said, “When you inspire a child, they will appreciate nature and will take care of the earth when we are gone.”

A Penn State Master gardener, Maria shares her knowledge within the Erie community. She volunteers at Goodell Gardens, a non-profit botanical garden, where she teaches both pre-school and older children about monarchs, vermicomposting, and honey bees. At the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park, she holds classes on monarchs and milkweed at the annual outreach day and participates at their fall festival, bringing butterflies, chrysalides, and caterpillars. She also conducts lessons at Erie’s farm-to-school program called GEARS.  

Maria is currently the president of the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her enthusiasm has inspired many of the club’s members to raise monarchs, and almost everyone has milkweed growing in their gardens. In 2020, the club did a winter sowing of milkweed seeds to help replace native plants lost to invasive plants as part of its GCA Partners For Plants project and plans to do so again in 2021. 

While Maria’s Monarch propagation projects would be laudatory on their own, she also monitors the four stages of the Monarch from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult, and then tags the monarchs before releasing them to fly to Mexico. One of her monarchs was actually found in El Rosario in March 2016. But the impact grows exponentially when she involves children in such ways as giving them containers with monarch eggs waiting to be hatched into caterpillars.  

“Maria is an incredible person — she embodies the ideal recipient of the Hull award,” said the current Zone V chairman. The Garden Club of America, as part of its Scholarship program, offers this award to an individual who provides outstanding education for our youth. The Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Fund for Early Environmental Education was established "to recognize an individual who, through working with children under 16 years of age in horticulture and the environment, has inspired their appreciation of the beauty and fragility of our planet." 


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