WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SACRAMENTO FWO: A New Home for Pollinators at Alice Birney

Region 8, April 17, 2013
Students high five in celebration of the ground breaking to plant a redbud.
Students high five in celebration of the ground breaking to plant a redbud. - Photo Credit: n/a
Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator, Karleen Vollherbst, teaches students proper planting techniques.
Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator, Karleen Vollherbst, teaches students proper planting techniques. - Photo Credit: n/a
Students help water their new schoolyard habitat project.
Students help water their new schoolyard habitat project. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Karleen Vollherbst

On a bright, blue sky day almost 200 students spent time outside learning about pollinators and the places they call home. Once they understood what was needed and why it mattered, they happily started digging. Together, the students and staff planted 5000 square feet of new wildlife habitat at Alice Birney Waldorf Inspired School in Sacramento.

“Why plant native plants?” A class of third graders were asked. The answers rang out; “To bring butterflies to our school.” “To make the school pretty.” “To have a better environment.” “To make oxygen!”

All of those will happen at Alice Birney, and as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Those first steps started over two years ago when school staff, parents, and students started designing an outdoor classroom.

They had two equally important goals in mind for their space: to provide habitat for wildlife and place for students to explore.

The front of the school was a mix of bare soil and grass worn thin, an unwelcome area for students and wildlife alike. By putting in native flowers and shrubs, they hoped to attract pollinators and songbirds to their schoolyard. The students will then get to use their schoolyard as a place to learn about animal life cycles, how to identify different plant species and the relationships between plants and animals.

Taking this vision to fruition was the work of many. Teachers and parents worked together with, and received funding from, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat Program. Also critical was the help the school received from a district green school initiative. That went a long way to help pay for updated irrigation and walkways throughout the project area. Finally, on the day of planting, Service staff from the Sacramento and Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Field Offices,  as well as the Pacific Southwest Regional Office, provided day-of-digging help as students put nearly 300 native plants in the ground. Together they have left a living legacy at their school to benefit upcoming students and wildlife for years to come.

Karleen Vollherbst is the Schoolyard Habitat Program Coordinator at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office.

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