2014 Schoolyard Habitat Projects

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These are a few of the great habitat projects being installed this year thanks to funding from US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat Program

 

Laguna High School is a continuation high school that plans to integrate habitat and watershed restoration into environmental classes in hands-on and  tangible ways.

One of the primary pieces of this project will include replacing a large irrigated lawn with native perennial grasses. This lawn is one of the ‘centerpieces’ of the campus and will work effectively to model native restoration and ‘water wise’ landscaping In addition to replacing grass species, a low hedgerow will be installed on the eastern side of the meadow to create additional habitat for insects and birds.

The second aspect of this project is the infiltration of roof water runoff into rain gardens (to increase infiltration and reuse runoff) along the North Eastern side of the school. These rain gardens, bioswales and rocked channels will allow for increased water infiltration and seasonal wetland habitat and will create a niche for a greater diversity of plants and insects.

Another part of this project will be the completion of micro-earthworks, to improve water retention and function, throughout the campus. These earthworks will help direct water towards catchment basins away from primary accesses and slopes. The intention of these earthworks will be to decrease erosion, increase water infiltration and direct water towards existing water loving species (i.e. Redwood trees). These earthworks will take the form of small rocked channels (with some grade drop to lead water towards other features), Bioswales (on contour ditches/berms used to infiltrate runoff) and Rain Gardens (used to collect water in key locations and allow puddling and additional infiltration).

 

Wright Charter School (WCS) is a K-8 school serving 487 students from unincorporated Santa Rosa.  72% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch, and 78% of  students are English Language Learners.   Four years ago, WCS adopted an ecoliteracy charter to serve our students in a more robust and holistic way than standard public school programming provides. Ecological Literacy (also referred to as ecoliteracy) is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. To be ecoliterate means understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (i.e. ecosystems) and using those principles for creating sustainable human communities.

The 10 acre campus is surrounded by small family farms, and it provides an excellent opportunity to re-create native habitat in our locality. WCS sits in the middle of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, an ecologically diverse and sensitive area. The Laguna de Santa Rosa is Sonoma County’s richest area of wildlife habitat, and the most biologically diverse region of Sonoma County (itself the second-most biologically diverse county in California).

The two-part project encompasses a total of 7,905 square feet, and is divided into two distinct areas; a rain garden/seasonal wetland, and a pollinator and songbird hedgerow.  We also plan to install a nesting box path to provide support for migrating cavity nesting birds on our school site. Native plantings that attract insects will provide much needed protein for nestlings!

 

College Oak Montessori School (COMS) is a preschool serving 2 to 6 year-olds, which includes the kindergarten year. Our goal is to promote independence and responsibility while allowing children to experience the joy of learning at a young age.

Montessori students are taught a respect for each other, for humanity, for animals and for planet earth, and are encouraged to learn about the natural world via hands on, practical experience. This project will create many new and exciting outdoor learning opportunities for our children; provide an outdoor classroom space where native plant and animal species can be better studied; as well as provide increased habitat for wildlife adjacent to College Creek, which runs along the north end of our property.

The three areas of the property where we are developing and restoring native habitats encompass approximately 6,000 square feet of land. We designed the plant and landscapes to include native shrubs, vines and other plants to provide appropriate food, shelter and cover for wildlife in all four seasons. We have also designed a bioswale to channel storm water run-off, protect the Oak at the northeast end of the property from erosion, and reduce any pollutants and erosion in the adjacent creek.

 

The Larkfield Community Garden is a collaborative land-based learning project utilizing a Sonoma County Regional Park as a site for an educational school garden. Community Soil Foundation is the lead organization coordinating this innovative mixed-use project in partnership with Mark West Union School District, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Occidental Arts and Ecology and the Department of health Services. The goals of the Larkfield Community Garden are to 1) increase the environmental literacy of the students, teachers and their families involved with this project, 2) engage the school communities in protecting and restoring the local habitat and 3) promote the development of lifelong stewards of place who are concerned about the environment and the health and economy of their community.

The wildlife habitat component of the Larkfield community garden includes 4 native planting areas bordering the vegetable gardens. They showcase the indigenous plants of Sonoma County oak woodlands, chaparral, wetland, and meadow plant communities (see plant list) and the local wildlife that they support. They are designed for maximum habitat value with all plant species benefiting local birds, pollinators, amphibians, reptiles and beneficial insects. One planting area will include a small constructed a wetland to provide habitat for amphibians, insects, and will incorporate a fresh water feature that will provide water for wildlife. Field stones for sun seeking reptiles and have brush piles to create cover for birds will be integrated in the plantings.