Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Photo: USFWS

Schoolyard Habitat Program

The Schoolyard Habitat Program helps teachers and students create wildlife habitat at their own schools. Typical projects include: wetlands, meadows, forests and variations based on specific ecoregions.

Many projects are planned through multiple phases and change over time as children from various classes build upon the existing work of past students. We work with your school to provide:

  • technical assistance and project guidance
  • teacher training,
  • develop written materials

Our goal is to provide technical and organizational assistance to school, so they can create outdoor classrooms that are effective as educational tools in addition to being a sustainable habitat for many years to come.

Please download the following Fact Sheet for more information on the Schoolyard Habitat Program:
Schoolyard Habitat Fact Sheet (.pdf)

benefits of schoolyard habitats

  • Schoolyard Habitat projects are designed to achieve the mission and goals of the school, the Service, and the community. They address multiple environmental and educational concepts that benefit all involved, particularly the students.

    Ecologically sound: Schoolyard habitat projects provide habitat for local and migratory wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and more. In many cases, these habitats also provide a vegetative buffer to nearby streams, helping to reduce pollution reaching these waterways. To be ecologically sound the schoolyard habitats must be large enough in size and scope so they have a lasting impact on the local environment.

    Integrated into the curriculum: Schoolyard habitats offer many teaching and learning opportunities in English, science, mathematics, history, geography, social studies and art. The process of planning, creating and using a schoolyard habitat exposes children to unique hands-on experiences. A well-designed schoolyard habitat provides the opportunity for authentic long term data collection, which teachers attest is an important element for effective teaching.

    Stewardship: Research has shown that during the formative years of life, students develop perceptions and values about their environment. If designed and managed well by students, schoolyards can provide them with a powerful example of good land stewardship. Experts have demonstrated that young children are driven to explore, discover and play while refining motor skills. A schoolyard that includes a diversity of natural areas allows students to exercise these needs while nurturing the development of a land ethic that values natural spaces.

    Restoring a native habitat on a school site provides opportunities for:

    Children: to develop knowledge and skills as they undertake an exciting, real-life project.
    Teachers: to use the broad context of restoring the school yard to help enliven teaching and learning that can weave through the curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond.
    A school: to create opportunities for community involvement and diversify the schoolyard environment.

Restoring a school landscape provides the opportunity to engage students in:

  • -- Scientific inquiry in a meaningful context;
    -- Hands-on, minds-on learning;
    -- Real-life, important decisions that build confidence and resiliency;
    -- Interdisciplinary learning in a broad context;
    -- Work among peers, classes, grades and schools.
    -- Community involvement through cooperative projects.

Schoolyard Habitat in the news

Mulching Experiment Validates Technique for Schoolyard Habitat Projects

Weeds. Anyone that has ever planted a garden or installed some landscaping has had to confront them. They pop up everywhere. They invade vegetable gardens and overtake flower beds.

Photo by Michael Glenn/USFWS

And in the drier valley east of Ventura, Calif., between the Los Padres National Forest and Santa Monica Mountains, where growing conditions are less desirable, weeds are historically problematic, especially on native plant restoration sites.

It's a situation that Michael Glenn, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, had been struggling with in his own native plant, pollinator garden. As a biologist that coordinates Schoolyard Habitat projects using native plants, he had been receiving calls from many of his project partners concerned about troublesome weeds overtaking all the work they've done.

"It was a challenging situation," he explained. "I thought about trying a technique I used at home, in my own garden -- a layer of cardboard, under a layer of mulch." While that technique, known as "sheet mulching," had been successful for Glenn at his home, he needed to validate the process before recommending it to partners for use in their projects. So he took the idea to the Master Gardeners of Ventura. Continue to full story...

program coordinator

For more information about the Schoolyard Habitat Program in California, Nevada and Klamath Basin, contact:

Carolyn Kolstad
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific Southwest Region
Schoolyard Habitat Program
11641 Blocker Drive, Suite 110
Auburn, CA 95603
Office: (530) 889-2308 Cell: (916) 201-3051

Local contacts

Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office
Akimi King, Phone (541) 885-2515
1936 California Ave.
Klamath Falls, OR 97601 Email:

Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office
Jennifer Jones, Phone (530) 841-3109
1829 S. Oregon Street
Yreka, CA 96037

Northern Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office

Michelle Hunt, Phone(775) 861-6341
1340 Financial Blvd, Suite 234
Reno, NV 89502

Cosumnes River Preserve
Karleen Vollherbst
Phone (916) 775-4421, Ext. 172
Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
1624 Hood Franklin Road
Elk Grove, CA 95757

Sacramento Schoolyard Habitat Website

Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office
Michael Glenn, Phone (805) 644-1766 Ext. 328
2493 Portola Road, Suite B
Ventura, CA 93003

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge
Chantel Jimenez, Phone (619) 476-9150
1080 Gunpowder Point Dr.
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Schoolyard habitat at Rio Vista Middle School

Students from Rio Vista Middle School discuss their schoolyard habitat project. Students at Rio Vista Elementary School were mentored by the Schoolyard Habitat team to plant over 300 native plants to support butterflies and other pollinators during this January habitat planting day. This project took a significant amount of irrigation offline, allowing the school budget to grow as well. (Video by Ashley Spratt/USFWS)

Williamson Elementary School in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Students at Williamson Elementary School in Rancho Cordova, Calif., put the finishing touches on their newest classroom, using shovels and trowels and getting dirty in the process. The school, which was very close to shutting down last year, now has a new place to learn outside of the classroom in a native pollinator garden. Limited budgets for field trips will not be boxing these kids in this year. The excitement of the day was not always a given. Last year Williamson was one of three schools in the area that were considered for closure. Two would need to close and other neighborhood schools would absorb the students from those closing. It was a very strong possibility that it could have been Williamson. Near the end of the school year, the decision to keep Williamson open was made. Now instead of closing its doors, after a year and a half of teacher training and site preparation, students eagerly planted, mulched and watered their new classroom. As the weather warms and plants grow and bloom, this garden full of native plants will attract pollinator species, such as butterflies and songbirds, and give students an engaging place to learn outside of the classroom. "It's great to see kids in a different light outside of the classroom," said school's principal, Andy Smith. "It's getting them out of the classroom and getting [them] to do things they wouldn't normally do."