Education Newsletter Spring 2023

Hello, from the National Wildlife Federation’s Education Team

What if every school provided equitable access to nature that supports children’s well-being, learning, and unstructured play while contributing to community engagement and climate resilience? What if these same spaces could enhance biodiversity and help to support local wildlife while creating environmentally engaged students! At NWF this defines our longstanding Schoolyard Habitats® program. Since 1996, over 10,000 schools, preschools, and learning and nature centers have certified their schoolyard habitats through the National Wildlife Federation creating habitat for wildlife, access to green space, and outdoor classrooms for learning.

With summer just around the corner, let’s celebrate this and every school’s daily successes and enthusiasm for bringing nature and environment-based education to youth in the classroom and into the local community. The success across the National Wildlife Federation’s Education Programs reflects your dedication to the work.

Keep reading to learn how NWF’s Schoolyard Habitats® program has transformed school grounds into vibrant, living resources for learning and community resilience. See how schools have utilized NWF’s Eco-Schools program to support schoolyard habitat certification. Read some of the stories of success and get inspired by fellow educators who contributed their time and expertise to a series of webinars around the Schoolyard Habitats® Planning Guide. 

— Kath Race, Senior Coordinator, NWF’s Education & Engagement

Ten Thousand NWF Certified Schoolyard Habitats® and Counting!

It’s been over 25 years since the National Wildlife Federation started working with schools as part of a program to specifically create and restore wildlife habitat on schools’ grounds. Since then, the movement has gained momentum, with over 10,000 and counting National Wildlife Federation certified Schoolyard Habitats®. These schoolyard habitats not only attract wildlife, but serve as a place where EVERY student has the opportunity to connect with nature in an outdoor learning space. This milestone happens to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program. Everyone is invited to join the celebration—this list of 5 ways to celebrate is a good place to start. Keep an eye out for upcoming webinars, and follow @GardenforWildlife on Instagram for more ways to join the fun.

Stories of Transformation

Students, teachers, families, and community volunteers have transformed bare courtyards, patches of grass, and even urban rooftops and empty lots into thriving green spaces for learning and restoring habitat for wildlife. Many of these stories have been captured here on the National Wildlife Federation blog. The results reflect how each school has a unique approach to its design and implementation.

Here are but a few stories and photos showcasing schools in action and demonstrating the unique vision, breadth and depth of their work. 

In addition, programs like Monarch Heroes in Texas also support the creation of schoolyard habitats. Since 2015, over 230 gardens have been created to support wildlife and in particular, the Monarch butterfly. Over 80% of teachers reported seeing a moderate to significant increase in student engagement and motivation in science as a result of their program participation. A bilingual version of the Monarch Mission curriculum was created specifically for the Monarch Heroes program that is aligned to both the Texas Science Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency Skills (ELPS) for PreK-5. Watch the short video Build A Schoolyard Habitat | Be a Monarch Hero for inspiration!

How Can You Get Involved?

What does it take to certify at school? Required elements for certification include food, water, cover, places to raise young, and sustainable practices. Work towards a goal of 50-70% native plants. The National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habits® Planning Guide provides a step-by-step process to help plan, build, and maintain your new habitat on the road to certification. This guide was updated in 2021 with Green STEAM connections and detailed case studies.

Be sure to watch the Schoolyard Habitats® Planning Guide webinar series to learn and gather inspiration from teachers who are successfully utilizing outdoor learning spaces.

Other Ways to Get Involved

Have you heard about the Living Schoolyards Act (S-4993)? According to Green Schoolyards America, the bill will “direct important federal resources towards transforming school grounds into living schoolyards—richly layered outdoor environments that strengthen local ecological systems while providing place-based, hands-on learning resources for students of all ages.” Catch up on the Living Schoolyards Act Lecture series by watching the recorded webinars. Students can join the movement by using a free Student Advocacy Kit.

What We Are Reading

The Spring Issue of National Wildlife® magazine is here!

  • In Full Bloom | Garden for Wildlife Celebrates 50 years shares highlights of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program.
  • Next Generation: Kedar Narayan shares the work of 14-year old Kedar who has been working to inspire conservation and his passion for pollinator gardening since he was 9 years old.