The goal of our Schoolyard Habitat project is to create a 5,000 square foot native habitats learning area that allows children to interact with nature through environmental stewardship and direct observation. The project will be used by students at K-8 grade-levels for science, writing, reading, and any number of other activities. The site will contain seven distinct native habitat types.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Schoolyard Habitat Program has provided Bridgeway with an opportunity to bring the field component to the campus. It provides an outdoor classroom that will enable students to make regular observations in a range of habitats and provide opportunities to conduct research experiments during this instructional unit.
The local FWS program representative has worked with us through every step of the process to see that we are meeting the guidelines of their program as we make adjustments in our plans to meet the needs of the school. The FWS is providing funding (up to $8,000) that will cover the costs of plants and some of the qualifying incidental expenses. The FWS will also assist Bridgeway in seeking additional grant funding and donations of labor, equipment, and materials as necessary.
Several community organizations including local church groups and Bridgeway’s Parent Teacher Organization have committed to assisting with the project by helping with fund raising, labor, and seeking donations.
The habitat types have been picked and designed to represent the native and historic habitats that occurred in the Central Valley and within a short distance of the Central Valley. The plant selection is also designed to benefit native wildlife and engage children. For example the hedgerow habitat will consisted of a row of perennial shrubs that are drought-tolerant native California shrubs that provide pollen and nectar for beneficial insects and have successive and overlapping bloom periods such that something will be in bloom from March to December. The grassland will include a California Central Valley pollinator seed mix that consists of source-identified native wildflowers and bunch grasses that provide both foraging and nesting resources for pollinators across the Valley. The design of this mix is a direct result of research collaborations with UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The mix also includes Narrow Leaf Milkweed, a preferred larval host plant for western monarch butterflies. The mixed pined forest, riparian scrub-shrub, and dry shrub chaparral habitats will provide a diversity of native shrubs and a few larger trees.
As the habitats mature, the habitat garden is expected to provide habitat for a diversity of migratory and breeding birds, and resident reptiles and amphibians. A winding path and observation areas will provide the students and the community and opportunity to interact with the plants and animals.
Our first planting event today was a great success. Thanks to everyone who came out and helped get our first plants in the ground. We’re looking forward to more planting events throughout the winter and spring.
Over the past ten years, the third grade teachers have worked together with neighbor and wildlife biologist Cliff Feldheim to teach the ecology of the wetlands habitats in our Bridgeway Island neighborhood. During our six-week Open Court language arts “City Wildlife” unit, we have used our language arts and science curriculum, presentations by the California Waterfowl Association, and a one-mile walking field trip to a neighborhood wetland.
During the instructional unit, students learn about bird migration, animal adaptations, native plant species, and how to identify many of the species of birds that visit the Bridgeway Island area.
Students keep writing journals of their studies and observations. The instructional unit culminates with each student writing a research report on an animal that they may see while making observations in the neighborhood.