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Community Partnerships Connect Kids With Nature
A community partnership has formed to answer the call put forth by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF), the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, to connect kids with nature and create and conserve habitat for pollinators and other wildlife in North Carolina. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), Earthshare NC, and Corvian Community School have come together to build a new outdoor classroom, NWF Certified Schoolyard Habitat®, and Butterfly Highway pollinator pit-stop at Corvian Community School in Charlotte, NC.
This partnership was a natural fit in many ways. TIAA and NCWF are both a part of the Earthshare NC network and proposed to build a Certified Schoolyard Habitat as a part of the first ever Corporate Earthshare Challenge in Charlotte.
Corvian Community School was an ideal school for this program because TIAA is located in the University Research Park right across the street from the school, and they are connected by a greenway.
The school is also already engaged in connecting children with nature. Students spend on average, an hour each day exploring the greenway and learning and playing outside. The school was thrilled by the opportunity to participate in the project, and several teachers signed up to become garden stewards.
Building a Schoolyard Habitat
One of the focal points of the outdoor classroom is three raised bed gardens where students planted native nectar and host plants for butterflies and pollinators. Plants include butterflyweed milkweed, asters, tickseed, and goldenrod.
Kindergarten students at the school study the life cycle of butterflies, so this will provide them with a real life outdoor laboratory where they can study. This garden has also been registered as a Butterfly Highway pollinator pit-stop. The Butterfly Highway is a program of NCWF that aims to create a highway for pollinators and wildlife through the state. Creating habitat for pollinators in cities like Charlotte is key, as much of the native habitat has been replaced due to the effects of urbanization.
Since the garden is located next to the greenway, split rail fence sections were installed to define the area and provide a structure for Carolina Jessamine, an early spring blooming native vine, to climb. Additionally for this project, volunteers helped create natural seating areas along the greenway by cutting large logs that were found in the forest. They also installed nest boxes for bluebirds and screech owls.
One of the project’s challenges was accessing water for the raised beds and shrubs that were planted. Even though a large creek is nearby, there was no safe place to get water. After discussing the options, teachers agreed to sign up to water the garden with their class, and a classroom set of mini watering cans was ordered.
The location of the classroom and habitat are ideal because the gardens can be enjoyed by the community, visitors to the greenway, and employees of TIAA. Projects like this are important because they bring together many different community partners, exemplifying how these partners can positively impact our environment and the community.