• Newton-Lee’s Schoolyard Habitat: A Natural Place for Explorers!


    Garden chores kids can help with:


    • Planting donated plants
    • Putting down mulch (optional)
    • Watering
    • Creating plant markers
    • Making rock pile
    • Planting seeds and/or transplanting seedlings from classroom
    • And more!


    (Future chores might include seed harvesting, trimming, weeding, flower picking, filling bird feeder(s), cleaning/refilling bird bath, planting cool-season crops such as lettuce, building a pond, composting, etc.)


    Lesson Ideas/Habitat-Related Activities/Topics for Discussion:


    Identify activities classroom buddies can do together …


    Seed-Starting—Good seed options for starting indoors (or directly in the garden):



    Make container gardens


    Host contest to come up with a name for the garden/schoolyard habitat (students and teachers could vote for their favorite)


    Create a sign for the habitat


    Create a nature journal (place in central location where classes can record their observations)


    Make stepping stones (border could be decorated with each classmate’s thumbprint?)


    Topic: Pollinators/Pollination (www.pollinator.org; curriculum for grades 3-6: www.nappc.org/curriculum)


    Topic: Composting


    Lessons built around questions:

    What are the four essential elements of a wildlife habitat? (Answer: Food, water, shelter/cover, and places to raise young)

    Why is providing habitat important?

    What is an insect?

    What do plants need to grow?

    What are the differences between a moth and a butterfly? A dragonfly and a damselfly?


    Citizen Science Projects—Examples include:


    ·        Great Sunflower Project: www.greatsunflower.org

    ·        Journey North Tulip Garden and Climate Change Study—plant bulbs and track the arrival of spring: www.learner.org/jnorth/tulip/index.html


    ·        Wildlife Watch: www.nwf.org/wildlifewatch

    ·        Project Budburst: www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst

    ·        FrogWatch USA: www.nwf.org/frogwatchUSA

    ·        Project Feeder Watch: www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw

    ·        Monarch Watch: http://monarchwatch.org

    ·        Local offerings via Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy: www.loudounwildlife.org


    ·        The Lost Ladybug Project—help scientists look for nine-spotted lady beetles: http://ladybug.ento.cornell.edu


    Word Study (e.g., perennial vs. annual)


    Art (e.g., observe what the garden looks like today and draw a picture of what you imagine it will look like in the future; paint rocks to look like animals; make leaf prints)


    Food—make snacks that resemble animals (Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers offer some great books; I’ve a fun ladybug recipe [made with strawberries, blueberries, mini chocolate chips and licorice]); make things with garden offerings (herbs, etc.); talk about the importance of pollinators in bringing food to our tables …


    Make NLE plant field guide—have each class research a garden plant and craft a page about it with drawings or photos; compile all into field guide for students by students.  J


    Teach students how to use field guides (so they may identify the wildlife visitors they see in the garden and throughout the school grounds)


    Host a bird walk—invite local birder to lead the stroll


    Map the garden


    Study senses: touch, taste, smell, see, hear


    Topic: Seeds—could talk about ones we eat, e.g., sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, bean, pea, corn; how they travel (on wind, in animal scat, etc.)


    Poetry—could write poems about flowers, pollinators, being outside, nature …


    Math—e.g., track time it takes for plants to sprout/bloom, measure space between plants when thinning, measure width/depth when planting , count petals, track temperatures, design future garden additions ….


    History—e.g., discuss Native American uses for plants in garden, study the history of the school site (what was it before it was Newton-Lee Elementary?) …


    Shapes—many different kinds and sizes in the garden—trace them, describe them, give names to the ones that are nontraditional (encourage creativity!)


    Go on a nature scavenger hunt—a fun way to discover the natural wonders Newton-Lee has to offer


    Create garden section on NLE website (so kids can “see” what’s going on in the summer?)


    Topic: Birds—could study types, songs, nest types, favorite foods, migration …


    Publish student-created habitat newsletter—profile happenings, spotlight species, share stories of what kids are doing at home to support wildlife/be good stewards [could include drawings, poetry, news articles, comics and more]


    Explore the habitat outside/around Newton-Lee—there’s lots to explore (e.g., nearby woodlands)


    Music—sing songs about animals; listen to nature’s music (bird song, leaves rustling, rainfall …); learn animal calls/sounds


    Encourage “green hours”—time to be outside and play (www.greenhour.org) … or to cloud gaze, have a picnic, read a book (a fine place for D.E.A.R.) …


    Topic: Migration (http://www.learner.org/jnorth)


    Build a sunflower house (some online resources: http://familyfun.go.com/arts-and-crafts/season/feature/ff0506-sunflower-digs/ff0506-sunflower-digs.html or http://fun.familyeducation.com/outdoor-games/plants/35169.html)




    Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy: www.louodunwildlife.org (offer wonderful bird walks and butterfly/dragonfly walks—and so much more)


    National Wildlife Federation: www.nwf.org/gardenforwildlife


    Virginia WILD School Sites—free training opportunity for school staff (among other things, addresses how to use schoolyard as an instructional setting to meet several SOLs): http://www.dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/habitat_partners/school_sites.html

Last Modified on June 18, 2011