Conservation Partnerships
Schoolyard Habitat and Outdoor Classrooms

Joseph Charter School Students Work their Magic

       On a chilly afternoon in April, 20 students and 10 adult volunteers gathered at the “Magic Garden” space in the schoolyard of Joseph Charter School to participate in an “After School Garden Work Party.”  The group’s task was to clean up and prep the vegetable garden for spring planting and to develop a new pollinator garden.

       Students and volunteers braved windy conditions and cold temperatures with big smiles, shovels, and rakes, as they weeded, tilled, and removed dead vegetation. The Magic Garden Project provided water, snacks, and craft activities. The students accomplished an amazing amount of work and succeeded in getting outside, being active, and having fun working in their school garden!

Students at work in future pollinator garden space:  Javon Besotos-Brown, Sierra Griffith,
Lacee Wilcox, Brad Wilcox, Lucas Goodrich. Photo by Gretchen Sausen, USFWS.

Student Ariana  Samples pulls weeds to help prepare
school garden space.  Photo by Gretchen Sausen, FWS.

       The Schoolyard Habitat and Outdoor Classroom program helps teachers, students, parents, and the local community create wildlife habitat on school grounds, while getting students outside having fun learning.
       There are several components to this Schoolyard Habitat/Outdoor Classroom Program currently being developed at Joseph Charter School including: pollinator garden planting and curriculum, bluebird habitat monitoring, and other habitat enhancement/outdoor learning activities.
       Garden work days are open to community volunteers and Community Service hours will be available. Planting of the pollinator garden is planned for the afternoon June 5, weather dependent.

The new pollinator garden is a component of the Schoolyard Habitat/Outdoor Classroom Project and is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Joseph Charter School, and other community partners, funded in part through two grants awarded to the USFWS’ La Grande Field Office. The grants were provided by two USFWS programs: 1) Partners for Fish and Wildlife; and 2) Connecting People with Nature.



Stewardship through Action

The Schoolyard Habitat program helps teachers and students create wildlife habitat on school grounds. Habitat is the collective term for the food, water, shelter and nursery areas that all wildlife needs to survive. The loss of habitat is one of the greatest threats facing wildlife today.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides and coordinates with other agencies to give technical assistance and project guidance; provides teacher training; develops written resources; and works with other in the community to incorporate habitat issues into new school construction and renovation projects.

Benefits of the Schoolyard Habitat Program:

  • Improved habitat. Schoolyard habitat projects provide habitat for local and migratory wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. In many cases, these habitats also provide a vegetative buffer to nearby streams, reducing pollution reaching these waterways.

  • Teaching and learning. 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 habitat provides children with unique hands-on experiences. Research shows that using the environment as a focal point of teaching improves student performance.

  • Stewardship. During the formative years of life, students develop perceptions and values about their environment. If designed and managed properly, schoolyards can provide students a powerful example of land stewardship. Conversely, it is less likely that students will develop a sense of stewardship if attending a barren, poorly managed schoolyard.

  • Social development. Experts know that young children are driven to explore, discover and play while refining motor skills. A well-designed schoolyard including a diversity of natural areas, allows students to exercise these innate needs leading to a happier and more fulfilled childhood. Older students and adults also benefit. Research shows that most people are more relaxed in a natural landscape.
Photo - Students planting pollinator-friendly plants in schoolyard habitat (USFWS).
If you are interested in improving your schoolyard's habitat, contact Nancy Pollot, 503-231-6910. To learn more, you can download a copy of the Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide in .pdf format (8.4 megabytes). You will need a copy of Adobe's Acrobat Reader in order to view and print this document.

Photo - Zoologist-in-Training (Rich Mason, USFWS).







By instilling knowledge and a sense of stewardship now,

Photo - Schoolyard habitat activities (USFWS).

the future of both people and wildlife is looking brighter.