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Schoolyard Habitat Success Stories


   

2008/2009 School Year

Appeal Elementary School Lusby, MD
Evans Elementary School Limerick, PA
Central Mountain High School Mill Hall, PA
Southern Delaware School of the Arts Georgetown, DE
Sussex Central High School Millsboro, DE
Barnard Elementary School Washington D.C.
Brookland Learning Center Washington D.C.
Chamberlain Elementary School Washinton D.C.
J.C. Nalle Elementary School Washinton D.C.
Lord Baltimore Elementary School Ocean View, DE
Miner Elementary School Washington D.C.
Park Forest Elementary School State College, PA
Spring Grove Area High School Spring Grove, PA
Young Scholars of Cenral Pennsylvania State College, PA
   

Appeal Elementary School

Location: Lusby, MD
Type of Habitat: Rain Garden
Funded by: Private Funder

Before After

image of swale near parking lot

image of students planting swale

 

   

Evans Elementary School

Location: Limerick, PA
Type of Habitat: Converted stormwater swale into wet meadow/marsh
Funded by: School parner
Before
image of rain garden site prior to construction
During
image of elementary children planting wetland swale

After
image of planted swale


Central Mountain High School

Location: Mill Hall, PA
Type of Habitat: Large Scale Marsh Restoration
Funded by: NOAA and others

Before
image of bulldozer clearing site for wetland

During
high school students planting marsh

After
image of newly planted marsh

 


Barnard Elementary School
Washington D.C.

Project Size: ~1300 square feet

image of elementary children writing in habitat area

Cost: $4,000

Funding: District Department of the Environment

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern

Background:  
Sparked at first by a grant from the DDOE, Barnard Elementary experienced a domino effect of schoolyard greening. The fourth grade teachers, inspired by training and several classroom sessions, decided to protect the watershed through creating a rain garden and butterfly habitat that doubled as a classroom space. Inspired by their lead, by the end of the year Barnard had a plan in place for each grade to care for a garden space of its own.

Site Preparation:
The school’s internal gutter routed water away from the lawns, providing a challenge of irrigation. A site was eventually chosen along the bottom of an incline, where the habitat could help to filter storm water and prevent erosion. It turns out the site had been the home of a previous rain garden, although little was left to show for it. The shrubs of the old rain garden were integrated into the design for the new habitat, and the sandy soil mixture replaced with a rich compost mix.

Planting Day:
The entire fourth grade was set to be involved in the planting day, and due to a surprise standardized testing day, the fourth grade all came out and planted together. They say many hands make light work, and these fourth graders were dedicated to their habitat. Alternating planting and mulching, the students had the whole habitat in the ground in just over an hour. Students from the pre-K and first grade classes dropped by to cheer on their fourth grade friends, and to gather worms for their own garden studies!

Plants:
wild columbine, wild oats, goldenstar, mistflower, boneset, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, black-eyed susan, blue-eyed grass.

 

image if site near school prior to habitat constructionnewly planted habitat

 


Brookland Learning Center @ Bunker Hill
Washington D.C.
Project Size: ~1,500 square feet
image of children planting wetland plants

Cost: $4000

Funding: District Department of the Environment

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern

Background:  
Several years ago, Environmental Concern worked with Brookland Elementary to create a wetland habitat. But due to renovations, Brookland moved locations and became the Brookland Learning Center At Bunker Hill. Committed to bringing watershed improvement and outdoor classroom space from the old school to the new, teachers at Brookland worked with EC and the Watershed Wise DC program to create a native plant habitat at the Bunker Hill Site.

Site Preparation:
A site was chosen along the crest of Bunker Hill to help capture and filter rainwater as it runs off to the street. Existing shrubberies and landscaping were integrated into the design. Approximately 6 inches of soil was replaced with a mixture of compost, rich in nutrients.

Planting Day:
Standardized tests pushed the planting day back, leaving concerns that the new topsoil would be washed away with the spring rains. Still, despite the mud fourth grade students from Barnard were able to participate in planting their habitat. Students were especially excited as the spring flowers were all in bloom, and took care not to crush fragile columbine blossoms. Fifth grade students enthusiastically took over for mulching duties. Benches and a footpath were installed in the midst of the habitat to enable students and teachers to use area as a learning space.

Plants:
wild columbine, wild oats, goldenstar, mistflower, boneset, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, black-eyed susan, blue-eyed grass

 

image of habitat site brfore plantingimage of site after planting

 

 


Chamberlain Elementary School
Washington D.C.

Project Size: ~5,000

image of boys planting wetland plants

Cost: $3500

Funding: District Department of the Environment

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern, Students, Faculty Volunteers

 

Background:  
Chamberlain Elementary School (CES), one of Washington DC’s Public Charter Schools, got a green facelift when a drab front lawn was converted into an outdoor learning classroom.
The project supported by funding from DDOE included teacher trainings, class time with students, and installation of a habitat area with student involvement.
The faculty of the school decided it would be most beneficial to create a habitat garden designed for pollinators and song birds with space for benches and outdoor lessons.   The garden would connect their students to the outdoors and provide a place a beauty that is helpful to the environment. 

Site Preparation:
24 volunteers from a DC high school, Sidwell Friends, came to CES to help create planting beds.  In a technique dubbed, the lasagna method, the students layered newspaper on top of the existing grass followed by 3” of soil to be topped with 2” of mulch after planting.  Walkways were also installed by laying out filter cloth topped by 3” of mulch and bordered by scalloped red bricks.  Before leaving the high school students planted 8 large trees to decrease the amount of work for the elementary students.
As the site is in a very public space at the front of the school, passersby asked questions about, and gave praise for the project.  Some even stopped to help for a while before getting back to their daily tasks.
Anticipation built inside the school as the students observed the high school volunteers and began to see the garden taking shape.

Planting Day:
The chilly fall weather did not stop the students who enthusiastically planted over 500 native plants.  Students worked with great care to protect the young plants (some of which were beginning to go dormant for the winter) and even transported a
few worms that surfaced to areas safe from human feet so that the garden would be sure to flourish in the spring.
The garden received a fresh layer of mulch to give it a finished look and protect the plants as they prepare for winter.  Signs describing the different habitat features of the garden along with benches and a sundial put the finishing touches on a great green space for the school and the community.

Plants:
Eastern Columbine, Butterflyweed , Common Milkweed, Wild Blue Indigo, mistflower, Oxeye Sunflower, Great Blue Lobelia, Beebalm, Horsemint, Black Eyed Susans, wild petunia, Canadian goldenrod, Black Chokeberry, Blue eyed grass, Little Bluestem, New York Aster, Shadbush, Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, Switchgrass, inkberry.

image of school yard before project

 

image of school yard habitat after planting

 


Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Ocean View, DE

Project Size: ~1,300 square feet

image of group of boys posing with shovels

Cost: $800

Funding: Delaware Center for Inland Bays

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern & Gardeners by the Sea

Background:  
In 2008, EC teamed up with the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) and Lord Baltimore Elementary School (LBES) to install a rain garden between the school and playing fields. Gardeners by the Sea, a local garden club, joined the school in caring for the rain garden and other native plantings around the school grounds. The garden is a success and students are able to observe it on the way to and from recess. With a desire to continue the Green efforts of the school, a new project was planned for 2008/9. With funds provided by CIB, the Gardeners by the Sea facilitated a buffer planting along the edge of the school property that borders a small stream leading to the Inland Bays. The design for the buffer included a variety of trees and herbaceous plants that will widen the small existing stream buffer and beautify the fence that marks the school’s property line.

Site Preparation:
Prior to the planting, trash and turf grass were removed from the area and stakes were placed in the ground along the front edge of the planting area so that a rope perimeter could be marked off to keep the area safe from lawn mowers. Gardeners by the Sea volunteers helped prepare the area and loosen the soil to make planting easier for the students.

Planting Day:
The 1300 sq ft area was planted by LBES fourth and fifth graders. Each class came out and learned about the importance of wetlands to water quality and habitat within their watershed. Each student was able to make a wetland charm craft to remind them of their learning experience. Each child participated in planting a tree and herbaceous plants along the buffer.
When the plants were all in the ground, the area was covered in pine needles as a mulch to protect the plants, and keep the soils in place as the new species get established. A rope was attached to the stakes and water was brought in by bucket to water the new plants.
The buffer will make a nice addition to the other planted areas around the school, and is very visible from the playground where students spend their recess and gym time. The new habitat with strengthen the small wildlife corridor around the school’s edge and provide more natural space for teachers to explore with their students.

Plants:
Red Maple, Red Chokeberry, Shadbush, Black Chokeberry, Pin oak, Winterberry, Nannyberry, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Wax myrtle, Arrowwood, NY Aster, N. River Oats, and Little Bluestem.

image of empty school yard

 

image of habitat planting along fence

 


Miner Elementary School
Washington D.C.

Project Size: ~1,500 square feet

image of teachers and students planting wetland plants near fence

Cost: $3500

Funding: District Department of the Environment

Design: Environmental Concern & Miner Elementary School

Installation: Environmental Concern, East Millsboro

Background:  
With funding from a District Department of the Environment grant, Miner Elementary School, located in Northeast Washington D.C., decided to convert a portion of their playground into a natural space which acts as a peace garden and outdoor learning lab.  The space will provide students with a colorful oasis to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.  In addition it will provide an outdoor space where teachers bring their students for lessons. 
Teachers at the school attended three evening trainings to learn about schoolyard habitats, create a design for their garden, and choose plants that would provide habitat for songbirds and butterflies as well as bring a variety of color to the schoolyard.
The 5th grade students participated in two preparatory lessons led by EC where they learned the concept of watershed, the functions of wetlands within a watershed, and were introduced to the native plants that will provide habitat for butterflies and songbirds.

Site Preparation:
DC soil is often very compacted, filled with rocky debris and not very welcoming to young plants.  Severn Grove Ecological Design was hired to remove the top 6 inches of turf grass and soil in the planting area and replace it with 6 inches of clean, nutrient rich topsoil.  

Planting Day:
After seeing pictures of the plants selected for their garden, the 5th grade students were eager to place them in the garden.  Teachers and grandparent volunteers helped the students plant close to 450 flowers and grasses.  The following day 10 volunteers from City Year DC came out to add the finishing touches.  Mulch was spread, shrubs and trees too large to be planted by the students were added and soaker hose was spread throughout to make watering easy for the afterschool science club.  Before the end of the day, 3 different butterflies had found their way to Miner, a great prediction of things to come.

Plants:
Herbaceous - eastern columbine, common milkweed, butterfly weed, New York aster, joe-pye weed, mistflower, Oxeye sunflower, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, switchgrass, orange coneflower, wild petunia, Canadian/late goldenrod
Shrubs & Trees – spicebush, sweet pepperbush, red bud, forest pansy redbud, white fringetree

image of lawn area

 

image of newly planted habitat areas

 


Nalle Elementary School
Washington D.C.

Project Size: ~3300

image of boy planting wetland plants

Cost: $3500

Funding: District Department of the Environment

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern, DC Master and Urban Gardeners, CityYear, Severn Grove Ecological Designs, Students, Faculty Volunteers

 

Background:  
JC Nalle Elementary School, located near the Anacostia River in Washington DC, is doing their part to increase wildlife habitat in the Chesapeake Bay watershed thanks to funding from District Department of the Environment.  The grant application was initiated by three Montessori teachers from JC Nalle who were especially interested in providing their students a place to connect with nature.  With their students, the idea and design for JC Nalle’s Butterfly and Caterpillar Habitat- in the shape of a butterfly – was hatched.  With butterflies on the brain, teachers and students scouted out the site, secured a water source, and researched plants. 
Environmental Concern (EC) formalized the design details, supplied plants, and created a construction plan.  Specific native plants were brought in to provide food and shelter for adult butterflies as well as caterpillars and eggs.  A Butterfly Bath was installed as the water source, utilizing rocks and oyster shells to supply essential minerals that butterflies require.  Trees and shrubs were installed on the west side of the garden to block the prevailing winds and allow a nice calm space for butterflies to visit.  The site utilizes a very sunny space just outside of the Headstart Classroom on the C St side of the building.     

Site Preparation:
Family members, teachers, DC Master Gardeners, DC Urban Gardeners, MD graduate students, and EC staff began the construction with heaps of tilling, digging, and moving soil.  Severn Grove Ecological Design completed site preparations. Each butterfly wing was dug approximately 4 inches deep and filled with a topsoil-compost mixture.  The preexisting soil from the wings was used to level off a steep drop-off at the east end of the habitat where panic grass and sunflowers were planted.  Final planting, mulching, and arbor installation was completed by very hard working CityYear volunteers.  

Planting Day:
Headstart- fifth grade classes all helped to plant their butterfly and caterpillar habitat.  Each wing was divided into segments with one section for each class to plant.  Montessori students even got to help tackle the “mountain of mulch”.  Many small hands made for light work in the dirt, and they were helped along by oodles of enthusiasm.  Since it was October, students learned about plant’s response to changing seasons and faithfully planted some species that were already dormant.  All together, students planted approximately 500 plants of 21 different species.  A hard day’s work ended with a gentle shower of rain to nourish the plants in their new home.  Areas outside the wings were mulched to serve as walking paths.

Plants:
butterflyweed, common milkweed, eastern columbine, wild blue indigo, threadleaf coreopsis, joe pye weed, oxeye sunflower, great blue lobelia, cardinal flower, boneset, NY aster, coastal panic grass, beebalm, horsemint, black-eyed Susan, wrinkle-leaf goldenrod, sweet pepperbush, spicebush, flowering dogwood, and eastern redbud. 

image of cleared area ready for planting

 

image of students planting in beds shaped like a butterfly

 


Park Forest Elementary School
State College, PA

Project Size: ~1,000 square feet

image of students and teacher learning how to plant in a wetland

Cost: $2,000

Funding: NOAA B-Wet

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern

Background:  
Thanks to very enthusiastic staff, teachers and administrators Park Forest EC has gone out of its way to green its campus and educate its students about the environment and local watershed.  In summer of 2008 several school staff participated in our POW! workshop and gathered ideas for their school project. 
After meeting with Environmental Concern and scouring the school’s campus, a site was chosen from four possible locations for the wetland creation.  The chosen site was in close proximity to the school and the project leader’s classroom.  The site would be highly visible to students coming and going from school and recess as well as to the local community. 
The wetland creation will collect water before it goes to a local storm drain converting the storm drain into an emergency overflow instead of the direct receiver of the drainage. 

Site Preparation:
The site was selected in a low area toward the side of the school between the building and the playground areas.  The design took advantage of an existing storm drain and shallow swale, changing the drain from the lowest spot in the area into the highest, thus becoming an emergency overflow for the area.  The school facilities workers helped with redirecting two downspouts from the building toward the habitat.  Originally the downspouts flowed into an underground storm drain, but with some power tools and new piping, the water was rerouted to bring the additional stormwater directly into the wetland.  The same workers dug the depressions for the pooling areas and created a stone pathway around the edge so the students have easy access to the water’s edge. 

Planting Day:
With a site that was about 1000 square feet and over 500 students participating in the planting, it was a challenge to get everyone involved.  In order to overcome the obstacle of little space and lots of students, we arranged for three classes to come out each period and rotate to three activities; the planting station, a wetland lesson, and a wetland charm activity.  Each student, or pair of students (depending on their age) participated by planting one plant in the wetland.  The planting was challenging because of the rocklike soils at the site.  Luckily many adult volunteers were on hand to loosen the soil so that the young students could plant. 

Plants:
swamp milkweed, New York Aster, joe-pye weed, marsh hibiscus, blue flag, monkey flower, black-eyed Susan, blue-eyed grass, pickerel weed, lizards tail, common three square, soft stem bulrush, arrow arum, duck potato, eastern columbine, spotted joe-pye weed, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, cinnamon fern, little bluestem, wool grass, black chokeberry, sweet pepperbush, redosier dogwood, swamp rose, highbush blueberry, silver maple, shadbush, river birch.

image of barren school lawn area

 

image of rain garden after establishment

 


Spring Grove Area High School
Spring Grove, PA

Project Size: ~3,300 square feet

students planting school yard wetland

Cost: $2,000

Funding: NOAA B-Wet

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern

Background:  
Spring Grove Area High School (SGHS) opened fall 2008 with the ability to accommodate 1,700 students and over 100 staff members.  The high school shares its 230 acres campus with the middle, intermediate and elementary schools.  The construction of the new school created many new impervious spaces and copious amount of runoff, most of which were directed along the edges of the practice sports fields towards the rear of the school.  With all of the excess runoff, several sites appeared as optimal wetland habitats in close proximity to the science classrooms. 

When the school learned about the funding opportunity from NOAA B-WET through Environmental Concern, they were very eager to participate, but had a hard time narrowing the scope of the project to one outdoor classroom habitat.  Instead of limiting the process the lead teacher found matching funds so that in the end we were able to work on three separate sites at the same time. 

Site Preparation:
In fall of 2008 EC spent a day meeting with all of the environmental science students of the two lead teachers for the project.  Throughout the day the students learned about wetlands and how they are designed, then measured the sites and brainstormed about how to transform them into wetland outdoor classrooms. 
The three sites were located around the edges of the practice sports fields.  Each has steep slopes leading toward it on at least one side, carrying large amounts of rain water.  The first site was nearest the building and chosen as the primary classroom space as it is most accessible, including handicap access.  It was designed to have several pooling areas that flowed from one into the next and graded into the side of a hill with a walkway added for access and seating for class observations. 
The second site addressed an eroding swale that was collecting runoff from the large student parking lot.  The wetland was designed to treat the runoff and reduce erosion.  The existing swale was graded to slow water to allow infiltration and sediments collection.  It was planted with drought tolerant plants so that they could survive the dry spells between rains. 
The third wetland was created at the far end of the practice fields where several swales directed rain water off of the school property.  The wetland was created as a small pond that would contain and filter much of that water and provide a habitat area that students can use for comparative studies with the sites closer to the building.  It was designed as the deepest of the three wetlands, and is expected to stay wet for the majority of the year, even if the other two dry out periodically. 
A local contactor donated his services to excavate each site.  All removed soils were used to grade the surrounding areas or create berms to control the water’s movement. 

Planting Day:
During a two day period May 5th-6th, all of the environmental science students from SGHS participated in the planting.  Most classes came out both days, rain or shine, to plant and take part in other preparations for the wetland habitats.  Classes were separated into small groups and divided between the three spaces.  Over 1500 plants were installed at the school.  Several hundred young trees were placed around the wetland edges and a wide variety of herbaceous plants were planted in each site.  The spring and summer of 2009 was an extremely rainy season.  All of the sites were full of water during the planting, adding to the fun as well as creating several challenges.  Access to the deep zones for planting was limited as there were only a few pairs of hip waders and the students needed to return to school mostly dry to continue classes after their scheduled planting times.  Also, once the students began planting in and near the water, the sediments that they disturbed made it very difficult to see what had been planted as well as where the next plants should go.  A few of the deep water species were also not available by the scheduled planting date as a result of the cold spring and had to be shipped and planted later. 

Plants:
water plantain, common three-square, soft stem bulrush, marsh hibiscus, rice cutgrass, sweet flag, bluejoint grass, blunt spike rush, river bulrush, New York aster, tussock sedge, joe-pye weed, monkeyflower, NY ironweed, woolgrass, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, switch grass, black-eyed Susan, little blue stem, blue-eyed grass, inkberry, Virginia sweetspire, river birch, pin oak, eastern red cedar, buttonbush, gray dogwood, winterberry, highbush cranberry, white oak

large school lawn area

 

established school yard wetland

 


Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania
State College, PA

Project Size: ~5,000
image of young children planting wetland plants

Cost: $2,000

Funding: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, B-WET Grant

Design: Environmental Concern

Installation: Environmental Concern, Students, Faculty, Volunteers

Background:  
A new school warrants a new schoolyard habitat, so as Young Scholars of Central PA Elementary School enters their second year at their new location in State College, they were excited to add a wetland habitat to create an outdoor classroom.  As part of their back to school training every teacher participated in the POW! the Planning of Wetlands workshop where they were an active part of the wetland design team. 

The school campus already had a stormwater retention area that offered the perfect site for a wetland habitat.  Small alterations were planned and plants were selected that would turn the area into a thriving wetland for the school to enjoy. 

Site Preparation:
Excited by the planning and ready to dive in to wetland creation, the team wasted no time in checking with town officials about any necessary permits.  It was then that the project hit a slight snag in finding that the site selected was in violation with the town for not draining as quickly as it was designed to.  As the school had never received notice of the violation, there was sudden concern of the habitat project being derailed.  Since the site retaining water was important to the wetland design, members of the planning team met with town official to explain the benefits of the wetland creation in hopes that the benefits of their plan would both outweigh and address the concerns associated with the standing water (namely mosquito habitat).  

Once the town officials heard how the project proposed to be a balanced wetland habitat, providing for the needs of mosquito predators and posed no significant threat to safety they approved the project. 

After approval, parent volunteers came together to deepen one area of the site and remove the cattails there to make way for diverse new wetland plants.  They used the excavated soil to create two small islands to add to the diversity of the habitat. 

Planting Day:
As is the tradition for our PA wetland projects, we began the planting under cool, dark, stormy skies.  And, as it has been raining heavily in the days leading up to the planting, the area to be planted was covered in several inches of water, an added challenge when planting. 
Several parent volunteers helped to organize planting teams as each class came out for 40 minutes at a time to take part in the planting.  The process started slowly as students were hesitant to plant in the cool water with the low air temperature.  As the day progressed, the sun returned bringing with it warmth that motivated the students to plant more efficiently. 

By the end of the day the hundred participating students and volunteers had planted close to 600 plants and added dramatically to the diversity of species at the site.   

Plants:
Marsh marigold, New York aster, tussock sedge, fox sedge, blunt spike rush, Spotted joe-pye weed, Boneset, marsh hibiscus, blue flag iris, seashore mallow, cardinal flower, monkey flower, swamp rose, green bulrush, soft stem bulrush, New York ironweed, black chokeberry, silky dogwood, buttonbush, inkberry, elderberry, red maple, shadbush

habitat area prepared for planting

wetland planting after completion

 


 

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