Friday, November 20, 2009

Schoolyard Habitat: Stewardship through Action

The Schoolyard Habitat program helps teachers and students create wildlife habitat on school grounds. Habitat is the collective term for the food, water, shelter and nursery areas that all wildlife needs to survive. The loss of habitat is one of the greatest threats facing wildlife today.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides and coordinates with other agencies to give technical assistance and project guidance; provides teacher training; develops written resources; and works with the state Departments of Education on incorporating habitat issues into new school construction and renovation projects.

Benefits of the Schoolyard Habitat program include:

  • Improved habitat: Schoolyard habitat projects provide habitat for local and migratory wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. In many cases, these habitats also provide a vegetative buffer to nearby streams, reducing pollution reaching these waterways.
  • Teaching and learning: Schoolyard habitats offer many teaching and learning opportunities in English, science, mathematics, history, geography, social studies and art. The process of planning, creating and using a habitat provides children with unique hands-on experiences. Research shows that using the environment as a focal point of teaching improves student performance.
  • Stewardship: During the formative years of life, students develop perceptions and values about their environment. If designed and managed properly, schoolyards can provide students a powerful example of land stewardship. Conversely, it is less likely that students will develop a sense of stewardship if attending a barren, poorly managed schoolyard.
  • Social development: Experts know that young children are driven to explore, discover and play while refining motor skills. A well-designed schoolyard including a diversity of natural areas, allows students to exercise these innate needs leading to a happier and more fulfilled childhood. Older students and adults also benefit. Research shows that most people are more relaxed in a natural landscape.

If you are interested in improving your schoolyard's habitat, contact Karen Kelly-Mullin, 410/573-4510, or you can download a copy of the Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide in .pdf format (2.1 megabytes). For more information, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website: