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Wildlife Habitats on School Grounds

Many schools around the world are encouraging local wildlife to visit their school grounds by enhancing the physical environment around their buildings. Schools that provide food and water sources, as well as wildlife cover and nesting areas, are frequently able to attract a variety of wildlife species to their grounds. Such species can range from butterflies and birds, to lizards, rabbits, deer, and fish, depending on the school's location and the quality of the habitat they provide.

Some fortunate schools have existing forests, ponds, creeks, prairies, and other native habitat patches adjacent to their grounds. Other lucky schools have a relatively undisturbed area of native plants on their own land. In both of these cases, schools can work to enhance the wildlife habitat value of the site, and develop trails and study areas to make it more useful for hands-on lessons.

Most urban and suburban schools, however, find themselves with a "blank slate," wiped clean by bulldozers and capped with a continuous covering of asphalt, concrete, or lawn. It takes more work to bring wildlife back to these school sites, but don't despair! It is possible. Many of the successful examples listed below started their projects with similar situations.

The list of resources below will help you to get started on creating a wildlife habitat at your own school, and the list of case studies will give you ideas about what other schools have done.

Please contact the webmaster if you know of additional resources or case studies that should be added to this page. Thanks!

Resources for Schoolyard Wildlife Habitats

Resource Title Description
Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat Organizations around the World
ECO-MAIS, Ecology in the Mediterranean Assoc. of International Schools "The ECO-MAIS project is designed to assist K-12 international schools in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Morocco, and Tunisia to develop, construct, and use schoolyard habitat study sites." International (Mediterranean region)
NatureScape Alberta Organization that assists schools with schoolyard naturalization projects Alberta, Canada
Evergreen Canadian national non-profit organization with "a mandate to bring nature to our cities through naturalization projects." Toronto, Canada
LTL is a large, nonprofit membership organization that is working to improve school grounds in the UK. They encourage schools to develop multifaceted outdoor teaching resources, and have written many excellent publications that are available through the website.
National, United Kingdom

Schoolyard Habitats, National Wildlife Federation

Large, national membership organization with extensive program supporting wildlife habitats at schools. The site also includes an online schoolyard wildlife habitat registry and information about their certification program. National, USA
Cool Schools Tree planting and energy and water conservation project in Los Angeles, sponsored by the LA Department of Water and Power. California, USA
Earth Partnership for Schools This educational initiative assists teachers in the establishment of restoration projects on their school sites and shows them how to incorporate restoration in almost any subject area of their curriculum. This program includes a two-week workshop each summer and ongoing support from the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. Additional link. Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Wild Ones Handbook A resource guide, developed by Wild Ones--Natural Landscapers, Ltd., that includes detailed information about landscaping with native plants, seed selection, site maintenance, etc. Also includes information about building bird and bat houses. Milwaukee, Wisconsin , USA
Additional Wildlife Habitat Resources
RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project Website for an international project focused on the ruby throated hummingbird in North and Central America. Includes projects and activities for K-12 teachers and students. North and Central America
The Butterfly Website: Butterflies in Education All types of information about starting butterfly habitats at your school. National, USA
Butterfly Garden: Mike MacDonald Information about butterflies and the plants that attract them, with good photographs. National, USA
The Dragonfly Website All types of information about dragonflies National, USA
The Hummingbird Website All types of information about hummingbird conservation and ecology National, USA
The Ornithology Website All types of information about bird ecology and conservation National, USA
Biggs Wildlife Pond Extensive information provided by an individual family about their backyard pond. Great resource for information about dragonflies, butterflies, pond care, etc. California, USA
California Dragonflies and Damselflies Information and photographs of all of the species of dragonflies and damselflies found in California. California, USA
Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois Photographs of and information about the plant species found in tallgrass prairie ecosystems in Illinois. Illinois, USA
Internet Ponder Online magazine with articles related to building your own pond USA


Case Studies of Schoolyard Wildlife Habitats

School Name Project Title Location
Casa Grande High School United Anglers of Casa Grande and the Adobe Creek Restoration Project. High school students raise endangered fish at an impressive hatchery they designed and built on their school grounds. Students have also extensively restored a neighborhood creek over the last 15+ years. Petaluma, California, USA
Montgomery High School Beautiful native plants garden in San Diego. Students and teachers transformed a barren patch of hard packed earth into a living, blooming wildlife habitat, complete with native plant communities from around San Diego and beautiful student artwork made from recycled materials. San Diego, California, USA
Coal Creek Elementary School Butterfly garden Louisville, Colorado, USA
Golfview Elementary School Wildflower project, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, environmental club Rockledge, Florida, USA
Potter Street Elementary School Patriot's Sanctuary: courtyard wildlilfe habitat for birds, squirrels, butterflies, bees, frogs, and other creatures Bainbridge, Georgia, USA
The Rice School/La Escuela Rice Tree-related science projects on the school site Houston, Texas, USA
Princeton Middle School Butterfly and hummingbird garden Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Southern Pines Elementary School New York Times article about a school that created an onsite nature area to use as an outdoor classroom. Southern Pines, North Carolina, USA
SCALE: South Carolina Academic Learning Environment "...SCALE is a six-acre map of South Carolina with interstate highways, rivers, lakes, cities, historical markers, nature sites, and native plants. It is an outdoor facility where students can actively engage in learning, be it mathematics, science, geography, South Carolina history, environmental issues, reading, writing… SCALE lends itself to lessons that span the content areas giving students the opportunity to see the world as interconnected rather than segmented pieces."
South Carolina, USA


Schoolyard Wildlife Habitats around the World

Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School Yard Bird, butterfly, and hummingbird gardens, including plant lists and design considerations Vancouver, BC, Canada
Boyne River Natural Science School Facility used by schools in the Toronto, Ontario area for outdoor and science education Shelburne, Ontario, Canada
Sunningdale Elementary School Dreamacres naturalization project Oakville, Ontario, Canada
University of Toronto, St. George Campus Paper about "Increasing Ecological Function of the University of Toronto's St. George Campus through the Naturalization of the Campus' Open Space" Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ridgeway Primary School Wildflower meadow, pond, tree planting Burntwood, Staffordshire, England
Gorsemoor Primary School School ground naturalization project: planted 10,000 trees, created a maze from living willows, work with a nearby ancient heathland, etc. Cannock, Staffordshire, England
Richard Wakefield Primary School Wildflowers, living willow bird hide and maze, recycling program, orchard, vegetable garden. Staffordshire, England