Education > Schoolyard Habitats >Success Stories > 2006/2007 School Year
 


Schoolyard Habitat Success Stories

 

 

2006/2007 School Year

Brookland Elementary School

Washington, DC

 

 

Kennard Elementary School

Centreville, MD

 

 

Long Neck Elementary School

Millsboro, DE

 

 

Phillip Showell Elementary School

Selbyville, DE

 

 

Plaza Middle School

Virginia Beach, VA

 

 

Talbot County Agricultural Center

Easton, MD

 

 

Waples Mill Elementary School

Oakton, VA

 

 

 

Brookland Elementary School
Washington, DC

Project Size: ~150 square feet

Cost: $5000

Funding: Honda through Catholic University

Design: Environmental Concern

Support: EC, Catholic University


Background:
Brookland Elementary School in Washington DC has a very small plot of land to call a schoolyard.  Not big enough for a playground, it was simply used as a walkway from the front door to the faculty parking lot and student drop off.  Over time the grass was worn away forming a dirt path.  Being on a slope, this path and the small hill above it began to wash away and carry sediment into the parking lot and storm drains.  To help combat the problem, Environmental Concern designed an erosion control plan for the hill and pathway and a raingarden in the schoolyard to catch excess water and sediment running down the path.     

Site Preparation:
Student volunteers from Catholic University came in to do the dirty work of installing drain grates along the path to catch and slow rainwater, coconut fiber logs along the eroding hill to help stabilize the soil, and a small channel along the side of the path to direct run-off toward the raingarden.  Members of the Catholic University grounds crew then came out with a backhoe to dig out existing soil and add gravel, sand, and soil amendments necessary for a raingarden.  Finally, the area was ready for planting.

Planting Day:
Each class in the school came out the planting day to learn about the project and plant some plants!  At the end of the day about 250 plants were put in the ground and wildflower seeds were spread.  The students had so much fun planting we had several stay after school to help finish up with mulch.  Students watched their plants grow and made sure they were watered until the end of the school year.  When the students return in the fall they will be delighted find their raingarden full of flowers and cheer.

Plants:
lurid sedge, black-eyed susan, mistflower, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, seaside goldenrod, blue vervain, little bluestem, switchgrass, joe-pye weed, and boneset.

 


 

Kennard Elementary School
Centerville, MD

Project Size: ~2,500

Cost: $3000

Funding: Chesapeake Bay Trust

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: EC, Shoreman Outfitters, Kennard students and staff

Background:
Kennard Elementary school is located near the Corsica River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.  Increased development throughout the watershed has stressed the river, contributing to poor water quality.  Pre-project, all of the stormwater from the school’s buildings and parking lots were directed into a swale that drained into the Corsica. Kennard Elementary School’s wetland habitat was designed to collect and treat this run-off thereby reducing the pollution and sediment loads into the river.  Additionally, the wetland would serve as an outdoor classroom for the students at Kennard, providing educational opportunities in their own schoolyard, as well as a much-needed habitat for local fauna.

The site took advantage of the existing hydrology associated with the swale.  Mrs. Franklin’s afterschool Ecology Club students were involved in the design of the wetland, contributing their own goals and ideas for the new habitat.  The Ecology Club was especially concerned with pollution abatement and wildlife habitat, and made sure that the wetland design contributed to both. Through the school’s Bay Days, Kennard students in 3rd and 4th grade were introduced to wetland ecology, allowing them to further understand the importance of the new schoolyard wetland.

Site Preparation:
Shoreman Outfitters of Centreville, a local outfitter and wetland restoration company, completed the excavation.  The site, located at the end of the drainage swale, was dug about 2.5 feet deep, with a 2 foot high perimeter berm.  An outflow in the berm allows for excess water to drain out and into the local stream during a large storm event, instead of erode the berm.  

Planting Day:
All 400 students at Kennard Elementary School participated in the planting day.  Classes cycled through during the school day, and the Ecology Club members even stayed after school to finish up.  After a quick lesson on how to properly plant a plant, students got their hands muddy, planting almost 900 wetland plants in their new schoolyard habitat.  Before heading back to class, everyone got a nice rinse-off from the hose.  

Plants:
swamp milkweed, broomsedge, mist flower, cardinal flower, rice cutgrass, bluejoint grass, soft rush, switchgrass, New York ironweed, tussock sedge, joe-pye weed, marsh hibiscus, great blue lobelia, black-eyed Susan, woolgrass, green bulrush, swamp rose, purple chokeberry, winterberry, wax myrtle, marsh marigold, fox sedge, blunt spike rush, pickerelweed, lizard's tail

 


Long Neck Elementary School
Millsboro, DE

Project Size: ~2,000 square ft

Project Cost: $2,500

Project Partners:

Funded by: NOAA - National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Project design: Environmental Concern (EC)

Project installation by: EC, Tunnell Companies, Center for the Inland Bays, Long Neck students & staff

Background:
Long Neck Elementary School’s grounds include close to 5 acres of turf grass contributing to the more than 30 million acres of lawn throughout the US. All those lawns take a lot of care, from fertilizing to watering and of course hours spent mowing resulting in the problem of what to do with grass clippings. To reduce the amount of lawn area and to create more habitat space, Long Neck decided to convert a portion of their grass area into a functioning wetland. Once installed, the wetland would provide numerous education opportunities to their growing student body and reduce the amount of lawn care and associated pollutant loads to nearby receiving waters.

Much of the existing lawn surface sloped toward one low spot where it was meant to overflow into an adjacent stormwater ditch. Instead of running off as planned, the low space tended to gather water on the grass and the paved path that borders the field. The wetland was sited to take advantage of the existing drainage pattern.

The school was involved every step of the project. Students and teachers participated in the design process. Classes grew plants on their windowsills. Assemblies readied the students for the planting day and activities continued throughout the school year so that everyone would appreciate and understand the new habitat.

Site Preparation:
Excavation was generously donated by Tunnell Companies, a construction company in the Long Neck area. A few days before the planting was to take place, the sod was removed from approximately 2,000 square feet of the field. Half was dug out into two pooling regions and half was left to become a mulched classroom area.

The excavated area was dug to about 1 foot deep, bordered with a one foot tall berm. A low spot was created in the berm to direct any excess water to the stormwater retention area. This overflow spot was filled in with rock to allow the water to travel through without causing any erosion. The remaining area was covered in mulch creating an area for classes to use for lessons. A few trees and shrubs were added in that area to eventually provide visitors with shade.

Planting Day:
The entire school was involved in the planting day on May 25 th. The students cycled through three activity stations. Two of the stations featured wetland lessons teaching students about the new habitat area. One lesson was “Wetland in a Pan” from the WOW The Wonders of Wetland Curriculum, and the other was “Wetland Charm” – a wetland craft detailing the functions of wetlands. At the third station the classes learned how to plant their wetland species and helped to mulch the surrounding area.

Plants included:
swamp milkweed, New York aster, tussock sedge, joe-pye weed, boneset, marsh hibiscus, great blue lobelia, royal fern, black-eyed Susan, woolgrass, seaside goldenrod, green bulrush, blue vervain, swamp rose, shadbush, purple chokeberry, Atlantic white cedar, black chokeberry, wax myrtle, sweet flag, marsh maragold, fox sedge, blunt spike rush, blue flag, arrow arum, pickerelweed, duck potato, lizard's tail

 


Philip Showell Elementary School
Selbyville, DE

Project Size: ~2,000 square feet

Project Cost: $2,500

Project Partners:

Funded by: NOAA - National Oceanic & Atmospheric administration

Project design: Environmental Concern (EC)

Project installation by: EC, Bunting & Murray Construction Corporation, Center for the Inland Bays Volunteers, PCS students & staff

Background:
After a good rain everyone used to avoid the back lower area of the Phillip C. Showell (PCS) playground where the make shift soccer field would morph into a mucky mess – but luckily this makes it the perfect site for a schoolyard wetland habitat.

The site is downhill from the school and its parking areas as well as a play area and blacktop. These surfaces all drain down into the wet area and the creek beyond. The new PCS wetland is designed to absorb this runoff and filter associated sediments and pollutants as they cross the drainage area before reaching the creek. The site, which connects to a wooded area behind the school, also acts as a wildlife corridor.

Site Preparation:
With family ties to PCS, Bunting & Murray Construction Corporation offered their excavation services free of charge. The area was excavated in an oblong shape following the topography of the land. Planting shelves were added at 1.5, 1 and .5 foot depths. Since the area was on a slope, excavated material was moved to build up the downhill side to slow the flow of water and a berm was added to the end in order to contain the water.

The existing soil was sandy and therefore very porous. Granular clay was added to decrease permeability and increase the water holding capacity of the wetland.

Planting Day:
PCS organized a different type of field day to celebrate the end of school. Rather than relay races, the students cycled through three wetland activity stations. Two of the stations featured wetland lessons teaching students about the new habitat area. One lesson was “Wetland in a Pan” from the WOW The Wonders of Wetland Curriculum, and the other was “Wetland Charm” – a wetland craft detailing the functions of wetlands. At the third station each class participated in planting the wetland with a variety of herbaceous and woody species.

Wildlife from the surrounding area was excited about the process. During the day, a female snapping turtle was spotted very close by searching for the perfect nesting site.

Plants:
seaside goldenrod, New York aster, switchgrass, joe-pye weed, boneset, rice cutgrass, cardinal flower, sensative fern, black-eyed susan, woolgrass, green bulrush, swamp milkweed, shadbush, winterberry, wax myrtle, arrowwood, river birch, sweet flag, fox sedge, blunt spike rush, blue flag, duck potato, lizard's tail, three-way sedge, water plantain, arrow arum, pickerelweed

 


Plaza Middle School
Virginia Beach, VA

Project Size: ~2,000 square feet

Cost: $2,500

Funding: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: EC, Plaza Middle School Volunteers and Shawn Mason

Background:
“I am so thankful that you gave our school the grant.  I can’t wait to learn even more about wetlands.  I am so interested in this because we will get to go outside and learn.  I can’t wait to help build it.”  - wrote Alyssa Morris of Cindy Kube’s Plaza Middle School advanced science class.  This was just one of the many notes written to express the excitement of the students at the beginning of this wetland creation project. 

The students began with an assessment of their schoolyard.  They identified an ideal grassy spot between the parking lot and tennis courts which floods whenever it rains.  It was a wetland waiting to happen.  With further research the, students discovered that the site had once contained a stream before the school was built.    

Site Preparation:
While it was a dry spring, excavation was scheduled to begin on what turned out to be the day after one of the largest storms of the season.  Instead of digging, the excavators watched ducks swim by on the waterlogged grass. 

Therefore, the excavation was rescheduled a few weeks later   when both the site had dried and school schedules allowed.  After the sod was removed, the site was excavated.  The plan included a variety of depths ranging from a few inches to a few feet.  Shallower sections will flood and dry while the deepest pools will be permanently flooded.  The variety of depths creates variable habitats which support a greater diversity of wildlife.  The removed soil is slated to be used for improvements to the football field.

Planting Day:
On Saturday June 9th students, teachers and community members came together to create the wetland. More than 50 volunteers spent just over 4 hours planting close to 1000 plants including trees, shrubs and herbaceous emergent species.  The task was not easy. Along the outer edges of the wetland, the clay soil had hardened and made for tough digging.  The tiller that was rented for the day barely made a dent as it cranked along and loosened only the very top surface of the soil.  Toward the center, where the pool level was at 2 feet, digging was easier, but getting one’s feet out of the mud became much more difficult.  When all the plants were in the ground a small stake & rope fence was erected to designate that the area should not be mowed.  Temporary laminated signs were affixed to the posts to inform visitors about the project. 

During the first six months, a new wetland must be watered regularly to help plants become established.  For school wetlands installed in the spring, summer watering can at times be a challenge.  The lead teachers for the school have worked out a watering schedule so that the plants will stay healthy as they get established through the spring & summer. 

Despite all of the challenges involved with this project, the participants, motivated to improve the watershed and academic achievement, successfully created a wetland outdoor classroom that will greet returning students in the fall. 

 


Talbot County Agricultural Center
Easton, MD

Project Size: ~500 square feet, 2 rain barrels

Cost: $3,282

Funding: Chesapeake Bay Trust

Design: Environmental Concern

Background:

The Talbot Agriculture Center is located just outside of downtown Easton, Maryland. It consists of 18.5 acres and is visited annually by approximately 7,000 people for various agriculture and community events and programs. The Ag Center’s covered pavilion off of the Collier’s Building, is a central feature of the property. Each year, the building plays host to the county fair, 4-H activities, dog shows, meetings, and many other community activities. The nearly 4,000 square feet of roof area drains directly onto a sloping lawn surface creating excessive runoff and unusable puddled areas below the parking area.

Located at each downspout of the pavilion, the two rain gardens and two rain barrels will alleviate the unwanted flooding , use the runoff in a productive way and model best landuse management practices.

Preparation: The rain gardens were created following the Prince George’s County, Maryland protocol. To facilitate percolation, the existing clay soils were excavated to a depth of 3ft. With the help of many Master Gardener volunteers, the sites were then filled with a 1 foot layer of 2” stone then a 1.5 foot layer of sand and soil. A berm was constructed around the perimeter of each garden to further catch water and retain it in the area. Overflow areas were built to allow excess water to escape during extreme storms.

Planting Day:

Master Gardener volunteers were joined by High School exchange students from Wales. Together, they planted the rain gardens with a variety of native species that are specially adapted to withstand rapid inundation of rain as well as periods of dryness. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch completed each of the gardens.

In addition to the rain gardens, rain barrels were installed on two of the downspouts of the main building. The rain barrels are located at either end of the building and will collect water that will be recycled and used to water the other demonstration gardens planted around the Ag Center. The rain barrels are equipped with screens (to prevent mosquitoes from entering), an overflow valve, and a hose attachment on the bottom.

Plants:
Cinnamon Fern, Sweet Flag, Swamp Milkweed, Tussock Sedge, Sweet Pepper bush, Joe pye Weed, Boneset, Seashore Mallow, Switch Grass and Cardinal Flower

 


Waples Mill Elementary School
Oakton, VA

Project Size: ~1,300 square feet

Project Cost: $2,500

Project Partners:

Funded by: NOAA - National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Project design: Environmental Concern (EC)

Project installation by: EC, Fairfax County Public Schools and Waples Mill E. S.

Background:
The Waples Mill Elementary School campus in Oakton Virginia covers close to 10.5 acres. As with most schools, the majority of that area is made up of impervious surfaces and turf lawns. The campus is designed so that a large portion of the facility drains into a ditch toward the rear of the school just before the play areas.

Responding to a request for projects issued in October 2006, Waples’ teacher Sean Duffy submitted a project idea along with letters of support from the principal and facility personnel. The project, construction of a wetland in the drainage ditch would complement Mr. Duffy’s personal mission to transform many of the campus turf zones into schoolyard habitat areas, and become a habitat demonstration school for Fairfax County.

The project is designed to transform what is currently a mucky drainage ditch dividing the school campus in two, into a productive wetland habitat that will unite the areas of the school and its members. The converted drainage ditch will help to clean the water that runs through it, coming from the parking lot and the recreational fields, improving water quality as it moves off of the school property.

In addition to creating the wetland, Mr. Duffy is helping EC train Fairfax County teachers how to bring wetlands alive, into and across the curriculum with activities and lessons from the WOW! Wonders of Wetlands and POW! Planning of Wetlands curriculum guides.

Site Preparation:
Located in a functioning drainage ditch, the project site required little excavation. The school’s maintenance crew was able to widen the planting area and remove excess soil, as well as create some deeper central channels. The crew tilled the soil which made the planting process much easier.

Planting Day:
Planting began just as excavation was completed on April 30, 2007; both student and parent volunteers joined in the fun. By the end of the day the woody plants and the deepest sections of the wetland were planted and watered. Planting continued into May 1 st as students from the second and fourth grade classes (the grades that focus on habitats and wetlands most heavily) took time from their class schedules to plant the outer edges of the wetland. With help from these students and volunteers from the energetic recess crowd, the remainder of the plants and the final touches were put into place. The transformation caught the eye of every passerby. Students, teachers, and parents exchanged excited comments and asked many questions about the new habitat. A stepping stone path was added and plans for a foot bridge and interpretive signs are in the works to insure that the wetland is accessible and informative to visitors.

Plants:
Plants were selected with the goal of attracting wildlife and improving water quality. Both the herbaceous and woody species were chosen to support and provide for a wide variety of birds, beneficial insects and other wetland animals. Specific grasses were also planted in inlet and outflow areas to slow the water speed and decrease erosion.

Plants included: swamp milkweed, turtlehead, joe-pye weed, mistflower, marsh hibiscus, rice cutgrass, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, cinnamon fern, switch grass, green bulrush, woolgrass, seaside goldenrod, red chokeberry, river birch, silky dogwood, winterberry, wax myrtle, American sycamore, swamp rose, bluejoint grass, fox sedge, blunt spike rush, blue flag, pickerelweed, lizard's tail, common three-square, soft stem bulrush.

 


 

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