This is the fourth article in a series on WILD School Sites, or outdoor classrooms. WILD School Sites are locations that can be used by students, teachers, and the school community as places to learn about wildlife and the environment. The first thing to do when developing a site is to formulate a plan. You can contact your district Wildlife Communication Specialist, who can walk you through the process to help ensure success.
So what type of project should you do?Remember, no two sites are the same, so each site will consist of different projects. Available resources, such as time, money, space, and labor, will also play a role in what projects are chosen. Last month’s article focused on brush piles, perching wires, and viewing blinds as an inexpensive and quick way to get your site up and running. This month we will look at a few more projects which can be completed as well as some important thoughts for those who already have sites.
Cementing your legacy
Sneaky visitorsMany species of animals are wary of humans and can be quite elusive. Creating an animal track plot is an inexpensive and fun way to learn what types of animals pass through your site. Students and educators are often amazed at the species that live around them.
Begin by clearing an area at least 3ft. by 3ft. of all grass and vegetation. A raised bed can also be constructed using landscape timbers. The area should then be filled with clay soil 2-3 inches deep. Be sure to rake the soil smooth and moisten the soil so it is soft enough for animals to leave impressions.
To increase the number and types of animals that visit your plot, try using various types of bait to lure wildlife in. For additional learning opportunities, keep records of what animals visit the site. Students can also create molds of the animal tracks using plaster of Paris.
Don’t walk awayWhether you are just starting out, or a seasoned veteran, WILD School Sites need to be maintained or they will become an overgrown patch of weeds. Maintenance really depends on what projects have been included in the site. This time of year, many species of bushes, including butterfly bushes, can be trimmed. Consult a garden book or website for other species. Warm season grasses can also be trimmed. Now is also a great time to start placing orders for perennials. Stick with native species if possible. Native plants will benefit more wildlife than non-native plants. Also, some non-native plants can become invasive. Native plants are also better adapted to local weather and pests so they require less water and chemicals.
If your site has nest boxes for birds, now is an excellent time to clean those boxes and remove any old nesting material, insect nests, and repair any damage that may have occurred over the winter. Nesting birds such as bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, house wrens, and tree swallows are beginning to look for nesting sites. So be sure to be ready for them.