Education > Schoolyard Habitats > FAQ

Schoolyard Wetland Habitats

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat Safe?
  2. Will the addition of a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat Increase Mosquito Populations & Disease
  3. How much is a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat going to cost?
  4. Do I need to get a permit to build a wetland schoolyard habitat?

NOTE: Information included in this sheet should be used as a guide only. Regulations governing installation of a water feature on school grounds will vary from county to county, school district to school district and perhaps even from school to school. In planning the construction of a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat it is important to research and follow locally mandated requirements.



Is a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat Safe?
The short answer is YES. However, when siting a wetland on school grounds, concerns regarding child safety will no doubt be voiced. As project lead, the best way to address such fears is through education. Hold meetings. Take field trips to similar projects. Bring in experts. Answer all questions. Building consensus is key to project success.

Habitats should be designed to minimize hazards. During the planning process if it seems that there are too many concerns voiced from either administration and/or parents, it is best to change the design in order to reap the benefits from project approval:

  • Decrease depth of ponded area
  • Decrease drainage time i.e. rain garden, wet meadow
  • Add a fence or other barrier

While it could be argued that a pencil could be a lethal weapon, life in a litigious country requires liability issues to be taken seriously. In most cases, a fence can be included in the design to deter would be vandals and/or drownings. The fence need not be steel mesh with barbed wire to be effective. In fact the addition of an aesthetically pleasing split rail fence with mesh enclosure can act to enhance the site while providing necessary protection. Of course it also adds to the overall cost of the project.

In most schools, the school day is structured in such a fashion that students have little to no free time. Therefore it can be reasoned that an educator trained in first-aid will supervise any time spent at the schoolyard wetland. Signs prohibiting unsupervised use of the natural area with advertised associated consequences can be erected to dissuade errant students.




Do Schoolyard Wetland Habitats breed mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes require water to breed. In most areas, even if wetlands are not present, there is no shortage of mosquito breeding sites. A small amount of water in a discarded tire, misplaced bucket, or roof gutter are perfect places for mosquitoes to breed.

A well functioning schoolyard wetland habitat will likely be home to a variety of the mosquito’s natural predators including frogs, newts, dragonfly, and birds, creating an environment where one is less likely to be bitten than is the case outside of the school grounds.

In fact, schoolyard habitats could be perceived as a better method of insect control than traditional lawn care treatments. Many pesticides kill beneficial insects and other organisms. This includes natural predators of mosquitoes as well as butterflies, ladybugs, and other insects that pollinate flowers, decompose waste in the ecosystem, and otherwise make life on earth livable.

Mosquitoes provide an important food source for a wide range of creatures such as fish, turtles, frogs, birds and bats, in addition to pollinating flowers. In fact, mosquitoes are rarely a problem in a body of water that also contains fish. Problems with mosquitoes arise when they are allowed to breed in temporary pools of water lacking larval predators.

Although mosquitoes can transmit disease to humans, they are primarily an annoyance. Personal protection such as long clothing and repellant can protect a person from the itching bites of a mosquito. People should remember that mosquitoes, and other insects, are an important part of the ecosystem. In his book The Diversity of Life, renowned entomologist Edward O. Wilson discusses the necessity of insects and land-dwelling arthropods, saying that "if [they] all were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months." Most other life forms, like amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals would also become extinct because of the domino effect that would occur in the food chain.



What are the facts about West Nile Virus?

Q. If I live in an area where birds or mosquitoes with West Nile Virus have been reported and a mosquito bites me, am I likely to get sick?
A. No. Even in areas where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Even if the mosquito is infected, less that 1% of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances you will become severely ill from any one-mosquito bite are extremely small.

Q. Can you get West Nile encephalitis from another person?
A. No. West Nile encephalitis is NOT transmitted from person to person. For example, you cannot get West Nile virus from touching or kissing a person who has the disease, or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease.

Q. What proportion of people with severe illness due to West Nile virus die?
A. Among those with severe illness due to West Nile virus, case fatality rates range from 3% to 15% and are highest among the elderly. Less than 1% of persons infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness.

Q. What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
A. Most infections are mild, and symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. More severe infection may be marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and, rarely, death.

Q. What is the incubation period in humans (i.e., time from infection to onset of disease symptoms) for West Nile encephalitis?
A. Usually 3 to 15 days.

Q. How long do symptoms last?
A. Symptoms of mild disease will generally last a few days. Symptoms of severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent.




How much is a Schoolyard Wetland Habitat going to cost?
Costs associated with the construction of a schoolyard wetland habitat vary tremendously. Depending upon the site and scale of projects costs could range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.


Costs are influenced by:

  • Staff, student and volunteer participation versus use of outside labor
  • Size and complexity of the project
  • Earth-moving and disposal volumes
  • Soil conditions & the need for amendments
  • Site characteristics such as accessibility & topography
  • Project needs such as seating, lighting, gates or fences

Tips on Keeping Costs Low:

  1. Scale the project according to budget, or split the project into phases
  2. Solicit as many donations as possible
  3. Do not plant more densely than needed
  4. Select plant sizes with budgets in mind & enquire about special rates*
  5. Utilize free or discounted services offered by local, state, federal and non-profits rather than hiring professional consultants
  6. Recruit a volunteer workforce

*EC offers discounts on plants for WOW! and POW! workshop participants. (<$100 = 2% discount, $100-$500 =- 5%,
$500-$2,000 = 10%, $2,000< = 15%)




Do I need to get a permit to build a wetland schoolyard habitat?
In order to protect wetland resources, the Federal government and many state and local governments require people to obtain permission to perform projects in wetlands, even if the intent is to enhance or restore wetland habitats. Involving students in the permitting process adds an additional educational layer to the project allowing for extensions into English, writing, law, social studies, history and civic responsibility.

A wetland restoration or enhancement project will most likely require a permit or other type of authorization. Creating a wetland where non previously existed does not generally require a permit unless the wetland will be created in an area already exhibiting wetland characteristics (soils, wetland vegetation).

In most cases, when approached with a schoolyard wetland project, government authorities at all levels will be more than willing to help guide you through all necessary steps of the permitting process including aiding in project adjustments and application submittals.

Types of Permits:
Clean Water Act Section 404 Permits are issued by the Corps of Engineers with oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Individual Permit:
Necessary for major wetland projects. Most expensive and time consuming to obtain, but are not likely to be needed for a schoolyard wetland.
Nationwide Permit: Issued for specific activities with relatively minor impacts on wetlands. Under the nationwide permit program, the Corps of Engineers may require written notification including the name, address, and telephone number of applicant, the location of the proposed project, and a brief description of the project.

Stream and Wetland Restoration Activities: is the most common type of nationwide permit sought for restoration or enhancement projects. This permit will cover most if not all, schoolyard wetlands.

At times, Soil & Erosion permits are also required - based on size, disturbance, and proximity to bodies of water (Contact the county Conservation District office). Building permits may be needed if permanent structures are being put in place (Contact your local town or county planning & zoning office).

Permit requirements often depend on:

  • Previous existence of wetlands or wetland characteristics
  • Size of project and area of disturbed soil
  • Location of project in respect to bodies of water
  • Removal of existing vegetation
  • Structures being erected




JC Parks Elementary School Wetland Habitat