Education > Schoolyard Habitats > Success Stories > 2005/2006 School Year
 


Schoolyard Habitat Success Stories

 

2005/2006 School Year

1st Colonial High School

Virginia Beach, VA

 

Bertie Backus Elementary School

Washington DC

 

Jefferson County 9th Grade Complex

Shenandoah Junction, WV

 

Nash Farm

Harper's Ferry

 

National Conservation Training Center

Shepherdstown, WV

 

Perrymont Elementary School

Lynchburg, VA

 

Seaton Elementary School

Washington DC

 

Spring Mills Middle School

Martinsburg, WV

 

Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club

Seaford, DE

 


1st Colonial High School
Virginia Beach, VA

Project Size: ~1,250 square feet

Cost: $2,500

Funded by: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Design: First Colonial High School

Installation: EC and First Colonial HS

Background:
Amber Agee-Dehart, lead teacher for this project, joined us in Maryland for a POW! The Planning of Wetlands workshop in 2004 and took the exact mission of the program back with her to Virginia Beach. Working with her high school students involved in every step of the planning, she designed a self-sustainable wetland habitat for her school. The students helped with everything from calculating a water budget to creating a wetland design which was lovingly referred to as “the pork chop” based on its shape. Together they chose the best plants for their wetland and where they should be placed throughout the habitat. The excitement and hard work of the students and Mrs. Agee-Dehart spread through the entire school as the project got underway.

Site Preparation:
The site was located within an inner courtyard of the school and therefore it could not be accessed by heavy digging equipment. A week before the planting day student volunteers joined Mrs. Agee-DeHart after school to begin digging the wetland by hand. For several days during lunch periods and after school Mrs. Agee-DeHart was joined by various volunteers working hard to excavate the area in time for the planting. The digging caused quite a stir with onlookers peering out the windows into the courtyard anxious to see what was to come from all the hard work.

Planting Day:
On May 19th, 2006 the final touches were dug into the landscape and at last the area was ready to be planted. Following the planting plan that had been created by Mrs. Agee-DeHart and her students, each new plant was set in the location where it was intended to grow. Eighteen students stayed after school that Friday to volunteer their time to plant and put the final touches on the wetland. The students each chose a section of the wetland that they would take responsibility for and began planting the plants in that area. Within a few hours the site changed from a muddy pit into a beautifully planted wetland. Mulch was spread around the surrounding area to give a finished look and keep weeds from growing in areas that could no longer be accessed by lawn mowers.

Since the planting day, benches and tables have been added to the area for helping observers and classroom study. Butterflies, dragonflies and humming birds were already frequent visitors during the first summer of the new wetland.

Plants:
Swamp Milkweed, Bluejoint Grass, Joe-Pye Weed, Soft Rush, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Monkeyflower, Switchgrass, Swamp Rose, Woolgrass, Blue Vervain, New York Ironweed


Bertie Backus Elementary School
Washington, DC

Project Size: ~200 square feet

Cost: $2,000

Funded by: DC Department of Health, Watershed Protection Division

Support: National Wildlife Federation

Design: Environmental Concern Inc.

Installation: Environmental Concern Inc.

Background:
Given existing site conditions and hydrologic limitations, a 200 square foot, lined pond was designed and plans submitted to DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to obtain a permit required for disturbing over 50 square feet of ground.

Site Preparation:
Environmental Concern’s schoolyard habitat specialists painted outlines in the grass delineating project depths. Students did the hard work of excavating the pond site with shovels.

Planting Day:
On September 13, 2005, five classes of Ms. Thompson’s seventh grade students each had an opportunity to take part in completing the project. Students began the day by cleaning the site of trash and debris, and preparing it for the liner. Once the liner was carefully unfolded and in place, students began filling the pond with a garden hose. As the water rose, students planted a variety of trees and shrubs native to the DC region in the areas outside of the pond. The more aquatic species of plants were potted using a special aquatic soil and readied for placement within the water. When the water reached the desired level and the liner was settled in place, students placed rocks along the water’s edge, and then cut the liner a few inches past the rock border. To complete the project, native flowering plants and ferns were planted around the pond area. Before the day was over, students witnessed the first visitor to the pond – a dragonfly that rested on a tall stem of soft stem bulrush! Ms. Thompson and her students are proud of their efforts, and are looking forward to studying and enjoying their newest outdoor discovery zone.

Plants:
Shadbush, Broomsedge, Black Chokeberry, Joe-Pye Weed, Blue Flag, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Royal Fern, Arrow Arum, Duck Potato, Elderberry, Lizard’s Tail, Soft Stem Bulrush, and Eastern Bur-reed

 


Jefferson County 9th Grade Complex
Shenandoah Junction, WV

 


Nash Farm
Harper's Ferry

Project Size: ~3,600

Cost: $2,000

Funding: National Atmospheric and Oceanic Admistration B-WET Grant

Project support by: USFWS National Conservation Training Center

Design: Environmental Concern Inc.

Installation: Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park

Background:
Nash Farm is an historic dairy farm bequeathed to the National Historic Park in 1990 by former Mayor Bradley Nash and his wife, Ruth. Mayor Nash was an avid supporter of educating young people and preserving the area’s natural and cultural history. In his honor, Nash Farm is being renovated to be used as an Education Center for school-age children. The National Historic Park and Environmental Concern Inc. worked together to construct a wetland area on-site to provide an outdoor classroom as well as the water quality improvement, stormwater retention, and habitat benefits that wetlands inherently provide.

Site Preparation:
The wetland site at Nash Farm utilized an existing depression in the landscape, probably the remains of an old farm pond. However, the soil conditions at the base of the depression were not suitable for water retention, and the depth of the existing depression was greater than the Park desired for a facility that will one day host children. To address both issues, the pond was filled in with road-grade soil and compacted to decrease infiltration. The result was an oval shaped pond that filled to approximately 1 foot deep on the first good rain.

Planting Day:
On October 12, 2005, 30 students from Denise Gipson’s7th grade class at Harper’s Ferry Middle School and 15 volunteers from the National Historic Park rolled up their sleaves (and pants) and helped to plant Nash Farm’s new wetland. In only 2 hours, over 200 plants were put in the ground! Students had a chance to get muddy and wet – and all for a good cause. These students and their peers will use this wetland to study all about the environment.

Plants:
Duck Potato, Pickerel Weed, Bald Cypress, New York Ironweed, Blue Flag Iris, Arrow Arum, Switchgrass, Soft Stem Bulrush, and Monkey flower

 


National Conservation Training Center
Shepherdstown, WV

 


Perrymont Elementary School
Lynchburg, VA

Project Size: ~2,000 square feet

Cost: $2,500

Funded by: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Project Partners: Lynchburg College, Sweet Briar College, Robert E. Lee Soil and Water District, Lynchburg Tree Stewards, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Master Gardeners, Virginia Department of Forestry, Lynchburg Public School System, Department of Environmental Concern, Parents, and Citizens for a Clean Lynchburg

Background: Perrymont Elementary School is located in a residential neighborhood of Lynchburg, VA. The school grounds contain a variety of garden areas that are used throughout the year by teachers as outdoor learning areas. The east side of the school’s property slopes downward toward Blackwater Creek which flows into the James River before heading out to the Chesapeake Bay. The area receives a large amount of runoff from the surrounding fields, the school buildings and the roadway above, which washes directly towards the creek during heavy rains. Taking advantage of the slope and hydrology, the wetland was designed with two deep ponds. The first pond acts as a rumble strip for fast moving runoff during hard rains, with the water traveling more slowly towards the larger pond behind it.

Site Preparation: On May 1 st Lynchburg Public Schools facilitated the excavation of the area using heavy equipment to remove the soil creating both ponds and depositing the excess soil at the lower end as a berm. The next day volunteers came with shovels to adjust the elevations of the ponds to match the design and add a variety of depths to benefit wildlife. Volunteers also helped loosen the soil making it easier for the young children to plant.

Planting Day: On May 4 th the entire student body (close to 400) of Perrymont Elementary School, their teachers, parents and various volunteers took part in the planting of their new wetland. During the wetland day, students rotated through three stations, beginning with “Wetland Metaphors” - a hands-on wetland activity about wetland values from the WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands Curriculum Guide. They proceeded to learn and sing the Perrymont Wetland Song complete with frog sounds and a catchy tune played on the guitar by Judy Strang. At the last station, students learned about the specific plant that they were to plant, then worked with a partner and a variety of adult volunteers to set their plant into the correct zone of the wetland. By the end of the day, students who had planted in the early morning were excited to return and see what an amazing change had occurred throughout the day.

The school will be able to continue their new enthusiasm for their creation by using the area as an addition to their extensive outdoor classroom areas that help students to explore, learn, create and develop a greater love for the natural world

.Plants: Sweet Flag, Blue Flag, Shadbush, Tussock Sedge, Fox Sedge, Silky Dogwood, Marsh Hibiscus, Winterberry, Rice Cutgrass, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Bayberry, Sensitive Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Royal Fern, Switchgrass, Pickerelweed, Common Three Square.


Seaton Elementary School
Washington, DC

Project Size: ~300 square feet

Cost: $2000

Funding: Spring Creek Foundation

Project support: Greener Schools Project andThe National Wildlife Federation

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern & Takoma Tree Experts

Background: Seaton Elementary School is located in the heart of DC. The campus has little unpaved space. However, a few years ago, a very forward thinking administration created a fenced outdoor laboratory that contains a variety of garden and ecology related projects. The lab is a natural oasis within the urban landscape.

The wetland project was sited at the lowest point in the area, the inlet to a storm drain connecting the property to the Anacostia River. Designed to look like the profile of a duck, the unique shape meanders around existing mature vegetation, creates added interest for the elementary students, and provides a great deal of valuable edge habitat for amphibians and macroinvertebrates. A bridge was included in the plans to hide the storm drain and to allow students to access and overlook the wetland as well as connecting the different sides of the outdoor habitat area.

Permit: Special permits were needed for this project due to its location within the District of Columbia and an historic district. Plans for the wetlands were approved by an engineer and needed to include specific information about required 8 foot fences surrounding the wetland, as well as soil amendment information, and details of all the structures that would be included in the design. The building permits had to go through review for erosion control and approval from the historic department.

Site Preparation: The District of Columbia was built on a drained and filled wetland. To create a proper foundation for construction, additional fill is often added. The area chosen for the wetland contained industrial fill, mainly composed of bricks. The fill and the unorthodox shape of the wetland were an added difficulty in preparing the site for planting.

A backhoe was used to dig the wetland, but the heavy machinery could only work on the largest zones of the design. The smaller, more detailed areas were excavated by hand with shovels, pick axes and a lot of umph. The soil substrate was amended with clay to facilitate water retention to support the vegetation and wildlife desired. These processes took place in stages through the winter and spring before it was finally time to plant the wetland in May.

Planting Day: May 23 rd was an exciting day for the teachers and students of Seaton Elementary School. Throughout the day students cycled through the outdoor labs planting in both the wetland and other garden areas. Younger students took part by helping to sort through bricks that could be used as a border to the wetland, while older students dug holes, fertilized and planted a variety of wetland plants. Students also helped to rake out the excess soils surrounding the excavated area to make a gradual berm that would be seededwith native wildflowers. By the end of the day the area was full of plants and the habitat was beginning to take shape as water was added. Soon after the wetland was planted, the bridge over one of the existing storm drains was installed and the final touch was completed.

Plants: Water Plantain, Black Chokeberry, Blunt Spike Rush, Marsh Hibiscus, Blue Flag, Rice Cutgrass, Great Blue Lobelia, Royal Fern, Pickerelweed, Black-eyed Susan, Lizard’s Tail, Soft Stem Bulrush, and New York Iron Weed.


Spring Mills Middle School
Martinsburg, WV

Project Size: ~750 square feet

Cost: $1,000

Funding: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Support: United States Fish & Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern & Volunteers from Spring Mills School and Local Community service groups.

Background:
Spring Mills Middle School is located in the rapidly growing panhandle of West Virginia, less than a mile from the Potomac River. The project site was a man-made water retention ditch running along side the school’s playing fields. The ditch is mainly made up of turf grass and is eroded in the spots where most of the runoff enters the area. The plan converts an environmental problem spot into a functioning wetland that the school can use as an outdoor classroom. Spring Mills educators attended a POW! The Planning of Wetlands training to learn about wetlands, schoolyard habitats and assist in the design of their wetland. The school chose to incorporate a bit of school spirit into the wetland by designing the deepest portions of the habitat in the shape of an “S” to stand for Spring Mills.

As an additional way to involve the students in the planning and design of the wetland, students grew soft stem bulrush on their classroom windowsills for a few weeks before the planting. Environmental Concern supplied the seedling plants from their native plant nursery, along with guidance on how to care for them. The students were in charge of caring for the wetland plants and proudly brought them out to the site on the day of the planting. The improved habitat is expected to attract wildlife to their school yard and help filter runoff coming from the school building and parking lots before it reaches a previously existing wetland nature area.

Site Preparation:
On a chilly day in April, Community Service volunteers joined school teachers and others to dig the wetland area by hand a few weeks before the planting was to occur. Volunteers used a rototiller, shovels, and brute force to carve the wetland shape. The area was secured with erosion control fabric to hold the soil until the area was planted.

Planting Day:
The planting was organized as part of the school’s Earth Day celebration. The 6 th - 8 th grade groups cycled through 4 stations; exploring the interconnections of a wetland food web, learning about the importance of wetlands in pollution reduction within a watershed, studying the soil in the wetland, and planting the wetland. Students were excited to get muddy as they took part in the process, and took extra pride when planting the bulrush that they had grown. Teacher and parent volunteers helped with the various stations and making sure all of the plants found a new home.

The new wetland is visible from the playing areas where the students spend recess and practice sports. Students will be able to watch their plants grow and study the wetland in their classes.

Plants:
Sweet Flag, Fringed Sedge, Blunt Spike Rush, Marsh Hibiscus, Blue Flag, Soft Rush, Soft Stem Bulrush, Monkey Flower, Switchgrass, Pickerelweed, Duck Potato, and Lizards Tail


Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club
Seaford, DE

Project Size: ~ 625 square feet

Cost: $2,500

Funded by: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Project design by: Environmental Concern

Project installation by: Environmental Concern & Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club staff and students

Background: The staff of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club saw potential in the stormwater runoff area at the corner of their playing fields. Although it was a neglected space filled with rocks, invasive weeds and wind blown trash, the Club believed it could be more. They chose to use their NOAA funding to transform the area into a living wetland to be used by wildlife and enjoyed by the Dragonfly Club and other classes from the Boys & Girls Club.

Planting Day: Approximately 25 children from the ages of 6 -16, plus a half dozen staff from The Boys & Girls Club joined EC in digging the area to the correct depths. The design included three different depth zones to accommodate the needs of the chosen plants and provide optimal habitat space. The area contained a lot of rocks placed there to prevent erosion, a job which will now mostly be performed by plants. The rocks which were in the way of digging were moved to create a border to the wetland. The crew worked diligently throughout the morning though distracted often by the presence of numerous earthworms. The excavated soil was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to a nearby disposal site.

By lunchtime the tired, muddy workers were thrilled to see the arrival of several large pizzas. Once their strength was regained it was back outside once more where the area was quickly planted and watered. Besides using the wetland for ecology studies, the Club hopes to purchase signs to educate the public as they pass by on their visits since the wetland is visible from the surrounding fields and parking lots.

Plants: Sweet Flag, Swamp Milkweed, Fringed Sedge, Blunt Spike Rush, Marsh Hibiscus, Blue Flag, Soft Rush, Rice Cutgrass, Switchgrass, Pickerelweed, Black-eyed susan, Lizards Tail, Soft Stem Bulrush, Blue Vervain


 

Back to Success Stories