Leaving the Legacy of Habitat. On a blustery spring April Fool’s Day, 41 students from Mrs. Wiederhold and Mrs. Sampson 5th grade classes joined staff from the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) to improve habitat, beautify their playground and “help mother earth”, according to one of the excited students. This group of 10 and 11 year olds along with the Columbia Parent Association has dedicated a portion of their school yard for wildlife habitat.
The Whatcom Conservation District was thrilled to provide expertise and 85 native plants to enhance the soil health, clean surface storm water and provide food and shelter for native wildlife. The experience began in the classroom where WCD Education Coordinator Aneka Sweeney led the group through an afternoon of exploration and activities to draft a plan for the planting project. Students considered what animals need to survive, what types of animals might want use their garden, what plants provide the best habitat during all times of the year, and what would grow best in the very sunny area of the playground.
The project was timed perfectly around WCD 22nd Annual Native Plant Sale aligning planting time and availability of species. On April 1st, with the garden plan in place, students arrived enthusiastic to make a difference and leave a legacy at their school. The large group was divided into teams: the Townsend’s Chipmunks, the Rufus Hummingbirds and the American Goldfinches, all native wildlife species with different habitat requirements. These teams of students then rotated through three stations of; interpretive sign making, native plant and wildlife games and getting their hands dirty as each student was able to plant at least 2 species in the ground. They created layers of habitat from a ground cover of Salal, Oregon Grape and Kinnicknick leading to understory shrubs of Mock Orange, Vine Maple, Spirea and Red Flowering Current. The students were proud of their efforts and hope their legacy will live on at Columbia Elementary as a place where urban schoolyards can be a safe place for kids and wildlife to thrive.