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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SACRAMENTO FWO: Teachers Ready to Start Restoring Native Habitat

Region 8, July 20, 2012
Teachers tour a native hedgerow project at the Institute host site, Soil Born Farms.
Teachers tour a native hedgerow project at the Institute host site, Soil Born Farms. - Photo Credit: n/a
A team of teachers begin design work for their schoolyard habitat project.
A team of teachers begin design work for their schoolyard habitat project. - Photo Credit: n/a
A teacher records daily plant and wildlife observations of a single spot within a recent restoration project.
A teacher records daily plant and wildlife observations of a single spot within a recent restoration project. - Photo Credit: n/a

Sacramento has a new team of teachers trained and ready to start restoring native habitat. Twenty-three teachers spent a week during their summer vacation learning how to create a schoolyard habitat and get students outside to learn. Teachers said goodbye to the traditional classroom training module, and said hello to the outdoors and to hands-on, experiential learning.

The teachers participated in a week-long RESTORE Institute to develop the skills needed to help put a project in the ground at their school. Team development, project design, budget planning, maintenance, and curriculum integration were all part of the coursework. Throughout the week, teachers observed native restoration projects at schools and participated in numerous activities that will encourage student-led project design, implementation and monitoring. The teachers learned restoration knowledge through presentations and activities led by volunteers at the Xerces Society, the California Native Plant Society, and UC Davis Department of Entomology. They experienced native habitat restoration in action at two RESTORE Institute host locations, Soil Born Farms and the Center for Land-based Learning.

Along with learning how to create native habitats, the teachers engaged in cross-curricular activities including descriptive writing in a habitat, making field observations of plants and animals, sorting and comparing candy while learning to make an identification key. They put on a pair of “square feet” to practice measurements and calculations. Teachers took home the new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide, along with restoration curriculum, a native plant guide, and lots of other tools for digging in and teaching about native habitat.

Karleen Vollherbst, the Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator for the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, spearheaded the course which is the foundation for a successful Schoolyard Habitat project. Teachers come to the training in teams from their school, and they are given time together to brainstorm potential projects. This provides a unique, practical experience and allows schools to leave with a head start on planning. Teachers leave inspired and motivated. Many had calendars in hand on the final day of training ready to schedule site visits and start planning.

Over the next year, Vollherbst will work with and coach the schools that participated in the course so that they can successfully design and implement schoolyard habitat projects at their sites. The Schoolyard Habitat Program is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and offers financial support to schools so that their projects can become a reality and kids get outside!

Contact Info: Karleen Vollherbst, 916-478-9247, karleen_vollherbst@fws.gov