I have always been a strong advocate of nature-based play for kids, but especially since I read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods in 2005, the same year Gabbie was born. (More about this in my previous post Raising Naturalists). It may sound radical to some, but it is becoming more obvious to me, both as a parent and an environmental scientist, that:
- We all need healthy ecosystems to survive
- Children need direct exposure to nature for healthy childhood development
- Our future depends upon successfully connecting children to nature, teaching them to care about it, and then encouraging them to pursue careers that will actively develop sustainable/regenerative solutions for peaceful co-habitation of the planet for generations to come.
With this hope for the future in mind we are donating a Schoolyard Habitat to one VT school in Chittenden or Addison County, to be selected through a sweepstakes contest (see below for details). The Schoolyard Habitat program was developed by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and here in VT, Liz Soper leads the charge. She is NWF’s Associate Director of Eco-Schools USA which is a school based program to green K-12 schools across the nation. Prior to directing Eco-Schools USA she worked directly with local communities to help protect and enhance wildlife habitat and implement NWF’s Backyard and Schoolyard Habitat programs. Since she obviously knows the ins-and-outs we will be consulting with Liz before we design and build the Schoolyard Habitat that we donate.
Schoolyard Habitats are similar to the Wildlife Habitats that we install for clients and then NWF certifies. They must include the same basic features - Food, Water, Cover, Places to Raise Young, and may also incorporate Sustainable Gardening features such as compost bins, raised vegetable beds and other container gardens. The Schoolyard Habitat is coupled with curriculum and a maintenance plan to keep the students, teachers and community involved and assure its long-term success.
The design will be tailored to meet the needs of the school, the interests of its members and the challenges of the site. The value of the design and installation of the Schoolyard Habitat that we are donating is $2,000 ($500 plants, $500 other materials, $1,000 labor) and could include:
- native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife including birds and butterflies,
- supplies such as feeders, a birdbath, and bird houses,
- a compost bin,
- a raised bed, and
- pathways and seating made out of natural materials such as mulch, stumps and boulders.
If you live in Addison or Chittenden County VT and would like to have a Schoolyard Habitat at your school then either send me an EMAIL (email@example.com) or visit our FACEBOOK PAGE TO ENTER the sweepstakes. The deadline is May 6th and the schoolyard will be installed in September 2013. The more parents in your town that enter, the greater your chances are of your school being picked, so share with gusto!
More resources for Outdoor classrooms/playgrounds -