About nine years ago, my students and I embarked on a PBL (Project-Based Learning) experience. While learning about animals and their habitats, the class decided to create our own habitat for native species in our schoolyard. We began with a persuasive writing exercise to convince the schoolboard and administration to allow us to transform a part of school property. This was only the first of many letters the students wrote during the project. Letters to local business owners afforded us the opportunity to buy tools and plants for our project. Students even convinced businesses and individuals to donate plants, mulch and tools. A newsletter created by the students went home with with everyone in the school explaining the project and making the plea for help.
In addition to writing skills, students did research on multiple topics. They learned through the National Wildlife Federation that we could become certified as an official Schoolyard Habitat. I learned as an educator that there are national standards that can be met just by doing the project. I now had justification in case anyone questioned the validity of our project. After researching the requirements to become a certified schoolyard habitat, students began researching plants and animals native to our area. They also used mathematical skills to map out an area of the schoolyard to create the habitat.
After a lot of preparation, in the spring of 2000, the students were finally ready to break ground. A year later, the habitat was certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Students were recognized in the local newspapers and we were interviewed on television by a local broadcast station.
The schoolyard habitat still lives today, and is maintained by my fifth grade class each year and students who volunteer to help during recess and after school. In addition, there is a schoolwide cleanup of the habitat in the spring on Earth Day. Go to our website to learn more about our Schoolyard Habitat or click below to watch the powerpoint.
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