Connecticut Schools Create Wildlife Habitat, Connect Youth with Nature
by Cindy Corsair and Georgia Basso
This past summer, six elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut unveiled the results of months of hard work to transform their campuses into rich habitat for wildlife and powerful learning environments for students. With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Audubon Connecticut, Common Ground High School, and the Yale Peabody Museum, leadership teams at participating schools created ambitious schoolyard habitat master plans. Students, staff, community volunteers, and members of Common Ground's Green Jobs Corps came together to put these plans into action—creating nature trails, pollinator and songbird habitat, rock and rain gardens, meadows with walking paths, interpretive signs using student artwork, and bird blinds for observation.
East Rock and Edgewood schools unveiled their first year of work to create schoolyard habitat; while Columbus, Barnard, and Worthington Hooker schools began work last year, and are now celebrating their second stage of work.
These new schoolyard habitats are a central part of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership—creating a matrix of urban habitat restoration sites across the city. While these sites provide important habitat for pollinators, songbirds, and other wildlife, the also improve human and watershed health, revitalize neighborhoods, increase knowledge about Long Island Sound, and engage communities in conservation action.
The Service's Southern New England-New York Bight Coastal Program (SNEP) became involved in this project in 2012 when they contributed seed funding to Audubon Connecticut, kicking off the first set of schoolyard habitat projects in the cities of Stamford and New Haven. As the partnership continued to grow, SNEP played an integral role in securing additional funding through the Service's Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative and the Long Island Sound Study Futures Fund. These funds allowed the New Haven project to expand and become one of the first officially designated Urban Wildlife Refuges in 2013 and as an Urban Bird Treaty city in 2015.
SNEP continues to work with partners in Connecticut to engage new schools each year, and provides support to schools looking to expand their schoolyard habitat projects.
This work has successfully brought conservation partners and communities together to protect and restore our natural resources, while providing teachers with additional resources to enhance their curriculum and foster a sense of stewardship among urban youth. Connecting with this urban audience will continue to be a critical component in the pursuit of the Service's mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Cindy Corsair and Georgia Basso are fish and wildlife biologists with the Service's Southern New England-New York Bight Coastal Program. Corsair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-364-9124, ext. 37. Basso can be reached at email@example.com or 703-358-2207.
Wildlife and Habitat Conservation
- Conservation Planning