An Ecology Centre in Your Schoolyard
Guess what? Your schoolyard is an ecosystem, too. It's a great place for play at recess, but it can be much more than that. It's a perfect spot to practise sustainable development. Why not use it to create an ecology study centre for wildlife?
With careful planning and management, your schoolyard can provide food and shelter for many small mammals and birds, attract helpful insects or grow plants that prevent erosion and keep the earth moist.
If you do decide to develop your schoolyard this way, it will be an important step toward a healthy future for our planet. You'll also be setting a good example in your community of now sustainable development works and why it must be practised by everyone.
In today's busy world, every time a new building goes up, some plant or animal is pushed out of its home territory. As more parking lots and subdivisions are built, wildlife has a harder time finding a place to live. Some species are squeezed out of existence as their territories are changed or destroyed by human activities.
It doesn't have to be like that. If we practise sustainable development, we can still enjoy the best of modern civilization without tossing wildlife or plants out of their home, sweet homes.
Plan for Diversity
Like you, wildlife needs four things to survive — food, water, shelter and space, all arranged just the way it likes it best. These four basics make up a habitat — a home for wildlife.
If you decide to develop your schoolyard as an ecological study centre, you'll need to consider these four basics. Think about how you can improve conditions for as many varieties of birds and mammals as possible around your school.
What kind of plants would grow well and provide food and shelter for local wildlife? Could you build nest boxes or make structures to shelter small animals? Could you provide or improve on a water supply? You'll need to think about these questions when you're planning your schoolyard ecosystem for wildlife.
Do it Everywhere!
What about our own backyard, a nursing home, a hospital or even around a parking lot? You can't do it all, of course. But you may be able to interest other groups in your community in practising sustainable development.
Your Master Plan
A Master Plan is a must before you begin your schoolyard ecology centre. Examine the space you plan to use. Walk it from one end to the other. What is growing there now? What kind of soil is present? (Different plants like different types of soil.) Is there too much shade, or not enough?
Think about the best spots for plants. Perhaps you should plant a hedge. Should you erect nest boxes? Must you create more watering areas? Be imaginative! Your Master Plan is a long-range one. It may take many years to complete, one small step at a time. There's no reason why you can't aim high — it doesn't all have to be done today!
Draw a map to scale. Mark in trees, rocks or other landmarks that are now in your schoolyard. With a different coloured pen, draw in the trees, flowers, nest boxes, and so on that may be added over the years. Future classes may want to change details of the original plan. But it's important to have a master map to begin with. Then you can manage your schoolyard ecosystem efficiently.
Discuss your plan with a keen gardener in your community or an expert from your district departments of wildlife, forestry, the environment or agriculture. Check the library for books on landscaping with wildlife in mind.
When the Master Plan is complete, discuss which project you would like to start off with. Make sure your project is realistic. Have a 15-minute class brainstorming session and see what comes up. One idea will lead to another. You'll be surprised how productive a brainstorming session can be.
It's a Big Deal
Make an event of your Master Plan. Tell your principal about it, and make a short presentation to the school. Talk about your long-range plan. Explain sustainable development and how important it is that we all become managers of our environment.
Your project is a big step in learning to manage an ecosystem for the future. But it's just as important to spread the word to other people about what we all must do to help our world stay healthy.
Here are some ideas to get more people involved in your plan:
- If your school or community has a science fair planned, set up a booth there.
- Design and photocopy a simple brochure explaining your project and how others could help. Hand it out to teachers, parents or those attending community events. It's a great way to get people participating in your schemes.
- Ask your school board what it's doing about environmental education. Make a video record of the development of your schoolyard centre year by year. A video will be helpful in your presentations on the importance of sustainable development.
Your Local Council Should Know
Put together a simple description of your plans and present it to your municipal council. Write a polite letter asking if your teacher and class may attend a council meeting to do this. Hand out photocopies explaining the importance of sustainable development.
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