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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SACRAMENTO FWO: Williamson Elementary Students Celebrate Pollinators

Region 8, November 29, 2011
Students learn how to use insect data collection sheets.
Students learn how to use insect data collection sheets. - Photo Credit: n/a
Three visitors are spotted on one native sage in Williamson Elementary School's Schoolyard Habitat Project.
Three visitors are spotted on one native sage in Williamson Elementary School's Schoolyard Habitat Project. - Photo Credit: n/a

It was a cloudy November day, but full of bright excited faces as students learned from scientists in the field. Williamson Elementary School celebrated their new schoolyard habitat project with a Pollinator Celebration Day.  

This celebration was two years in the making. Teachers, administrators, students, and community volunteers spent much of the past two years carefully planning and installing their schoolyard habitat project, a small area of the schoolyard restored with native plants providing an outdoor classroom space.

They designed their project with specific native plants to help attract and provide year-round habitat for bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. They chose a location that was close to the school so students could see their project from their classrooms as well as the playground, and they designed a pathway through the habitat to help offer teachers a place to take their students to learn. Students from the entire school took part in planting the habitat last spring. When they came back from summer vacation they saw a flourishing habitat full of flowers, insects, and birds. Finally, in November they celebrated their habitat and learned about the pollinating species it was attracting.

While many teachers brought their students to the habitat for class, they did not know a lot about the main habitat goal of their project. Simultaneously, the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office’s Connecting People with Nature Program was attracting biologists that wanted to volunteer for the program. However, these biologists lacked the lesson plans and materials to teach a program.

With the help of a Connecting People with Nature grant, Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator Karleen Vollherbst, created a Pollinator Education Kit with six lesson plans and all of the materials needed to teach them. With these new resources, biologists from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, graduate students from the University of California – Davis, and a volunteer educator from the Xerces Society joined together to offer Williamson Elementary School students a morning of pollinator activities. Traveling to stations throughout their schoolyard, students learned about the types of bees and other pollinators that could be found at their schoolyard habitat and throughout the world. They were taught about the connection between pollinators and the food that we eat, and got to thank pollinators for a special snack of raisins and apple slices. Finally, they took a walk through their project to observe and collect data about the pollinators using the new habitat.

The day was a big hit among the students an filled with lots of new excitement about pollinators. In a thank you letter to the volunteers, one student exclaimed, “Bees are the best insects in the world.” Another wrote, “I loved it when you taught us about the pollinators and you let us [see] the bat." The hard work of Williamson Elementary staff, support from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office’s Schoolyard Habitat Program, and community participation may have inspired some future biologists. “I can’t wait to grow up, so I can be like you guys.” wrote one student.

Following the pilot day at Williamson, the Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator updated and finalized the lesson plans. A binder was created with the lesson plans including background information for each lesson. The excitement of the Williamson Pollinator Day will be a catalyst for additional Pollinator Celebration Days led by field office staff at schools throughout the Sacramento region.

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