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: http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/schoolyd.html