Governor Phil Murphy • Lt.Governor Sheila Oliver
NJ Home | Services A to Z | Departments/Agencies | FAQs  
Seeds Title Bar
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
DEP Home | About DEP | Index by Topic | Programs/Units | DEP Online 

Outdoor Classroom Network - New Jersey


The following is the complete text and notes from the powerpoint presentations "Developing a Schoolyard Habitat" and "Wildlife Habitat" created for the WILD School Sites workshops. To view some of the images from the presentations, go to the Slideshow sampler. To view the entire program, attend one of the workshops. A schedule of workshops can be found in the current issue of the Branching Out Newsletter.

Please note: Links to non-State of New Jersey sites do not imply any official State of New Jersey endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data, or products presented at those locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. Links to non-State of New Jersey servers are provided solely as a reference to information on topics that may be useful to the general public.

Slide 1: Title Slide
(Outdoor Classroom Network Banner)
Developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Fish & Wildlife, and the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education

Slide 2: Select an Appropriate Area of Land
3 different schools with different areas to be made into a schoolyard habitat. Top: area of land adjacent to property line/road/parking lot, Bottom: Inner courtyard of 2 different schools (both protected from outside factors: vandalism, deer and other wildlife, some degree of protection from the elements).

Slide 3: Some Important Things to Consider:
Local geography/geology, soil composition, drainage, previous/current vegetation, amount of sunlight/shade, size, location, accessibility/maintainability.

Slide 4: Consult with Administration/Board of Education to Gain Approval
You must have many partners in this venture. Several committed teachers, the administration/board, custodial or grounds staff and the students! Remember: If one key person leaves the SYH often falls into disuse.

Slides 5 & 6: Highlight the many Benefits of a Schoolyard Habitat Program
Unique hands on experience; can be used continually year after year; allows students to develop an appreciation for the environment; provides students with a sense of ownership, which usually fosters an increase in pride for the school; develops unity, social skills, and responsibility; enhances students knowledge of various plant and wildlife species; succession, communities, the importance of preservation, land management, biodiversity, and adaptation can be studied; photosynthesis, food production in plants, seasonal cycles, and regeneration of plants can be seen first hand.

Slide 7: Opportunities for Cross-Curricular Learning
Relaxing environment for reading and writing in language arts; physical education through actual laboring; art education; Math: budgeting funds, measuring plots, growth percentages, etc.; technology: researching development on the internet, graphic representations, etc.; social studies: working with community officials, researching laws/ordinances, discovering the history and heritage of the state.

Slide 8: Teamwork is Important!
Get faculty and maintenance on board.
Faculty donations and suggestions, cooperation from groundskeepers, divide tasks among faculty.

Slide 9: Involvement of Students:
Provide students with indigenous plant life information. Explain land development. Allow students to develop ideas.
Often “trouble” students get very involved and protective of the schoolyard habitat when they are incorporated into the learning process. Make them leaders!

Slide 10: Encourage Students to take an Active Role.
Provide scale model of land for student use. Allow students to tour the area. Provide incentives and recognition for engaging ideas.

Slide 11: Check Local Ordinances
Stay away from “attractive nuisances” such as ponds, etc. Consider accessibility for the handicapped. Plant produce (this can also be used as a great fundraiser in the future). Liability and safety: consider possible hazards for students/visitors. Use caution when selecting fertilizer.
Ponds can be extremely attractive and beneficial in attracting wildlife and look good for the public and especially the press, but they are often more trouble than they are worth. If you are willing to care for a pond and it fits the habitat - put one in! Leave it out if you are not committed - or you may likely be! (Committed, that is!)

Slide 12: Create a Panel to Review Student Proposals
Select teachers to compile the most outstanding ideas into a developed layout. Present the culmination to the students, administration, and the community. Get outside assistance if needed.

Slide 13: Design a Landscape Blueprint!
4 images from various locations in New Jersey.

Slide 14: Seek out Support from Local Community Members.
Approach local businesses for donations: Hardware stores, landscape architects, nurseries, banks...etc. Offer public recognition in exchange for support.

Slide 15: We are Here to Help!
Other community members to approach:
Parent/Teacher Organization, local environmental groups, local businesses, college students, senior citizens, scout groups, civic groups...etc.
Local garden clubs are often very interested in sharing their time, resources, and love of the land!

Slide 16: Involve Your Township.
County/city public works department can provide mulch, wood chips, etc., local government officials, nature/outdoor education centers or parks.
Your local environmental or shade tree commissions are a great source of support - often financial! Seek them out! Contact ANJEC if you do not have a township commission for information about starting one.

Slide 17: Apply for Grants
Many national and regional organizations provide grants that support Schoolyard Habitats. Because Schoolyard Habitats accomplish so many goals, they are often qualified for many types of grants. Go to for more information!

Slide 18: Other Sources of Funding:
Environmental organizations, state and local agencies, federal agencies (such as US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Department of Agriculture), the Nature Conservancy, National Tree Trust Community, the National Gardening Association, Granting Foundations, Educational Awards.

Slide 19: A Little Advice:
Over fund! No matter how much funding you receive, you will always find yourself needing more. Don’t be surprised at how fast money disappears.
S--t--r--e--t--c--h, a little can go a long way!

Slide 20: Search out Technical Advice.
WILD School Sites Workshops, Native Plant Society of New Jersey, private consultants, Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, Outdoor Classroom Network, New Jersey Audubon Society.
Private Consultants:
Debbie Hadley at Wild Jersey:
Jerry Schierloh at Earth Circle of Learning:

Slide 21: Attend a Workshop!
WILD School Sites workshops are offered throughout the year in various locations all over New Jersey.
5 pictures of teachers attending various WILD School Sites workshops.

Slide 22: WILD School Sites; Grants That Got Them Started!
NJDEP Environmental Services Grant, School Community Association, National Youth Gardening Grant, Walmart Environmental Grant, Cape Education Fund Grant, Earth Stewards - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, BASF Grant, Harmon Foundation, Dodge Foundation, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program-Natural Resource Conservation Service, Ramsey Foundation VOICES Grant, Eckert Grant, NJ BISEC Grant, Trust for Public Land.

Slide 23: Curriculum Supplements!
Existing activities and hands-on lessons can be found in the following guides:
Project Learning Tree, Project WET, Project WILD, Aquatic WILD, Bridges to the Natural World, New Jersey WATERS, Down Jersey

Slide 24: Examples of Habitat Enhancements!
Nest Boxes, brush and rock piles, bird baths, greenhouse, ponds, food plots, butterfly gardens, shrubs and bushes, feeding stations, trees, flower gardens, nature trails, compost stations, herb gardens, gazebo/seating.

Slide 25: Begin Development!
4 images of students working on a schoolyard habitat.

Slide 26: Distribute Tasks Amongst Classes:
Hold different classes/students responsible for different tasks. Accountability will ensure that things get done.

Slide 27: Follow Through With Continued Maintenance.
Watering, weeding, soil improvements, mulching, planting, protecting plants (especially from the grounds crew). Most importantly, summer break!

Slide 28: Plan a “Field Trip”
3 images of students working on their schoolyard habitat.

Slide 29: Document Your Progress!
4 images of a schoolyard habitat project under construction.

Slide 30: Available Resources: WEBSITES
Outdoor Classroom Network, Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Slide 31: Available Resources: BOOKS & MAGAZINES
Homes for Wildlife, Greening School Grounds, Green Teacher, National Wildlife Magazine, Schoolyard Habitats - A How to Guide for K-12 School Communities.

Slide 32: Available Resources: ORGANIZATIONS
Native Plant Society of New Jersey, New Jersey Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, National Gardening Association, Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, Outdoor Classroom Network.

Slide 33: Construction Ideas and Advice
If you build it, they will come!

Slides 34-38: Rain Gardens
The garden is positioned to trap water from a downspout from the school. Rope is used to lay out the boundary of the rain garden. The rain garden is dug to 3 to 4 inches deep keeping it as level as possible. Students plant native plants in zones laid out on the ground. The young plants begin to flourish. Rain water from the downspout will flow directly to the rain garden. This rain garden is 2 years old. Weeds have a hard time growing in a mature rain garden. Old stalks can be cut back or mowed in the spring to give the new growth a good start. Birds and butterflies are regular visitors to the garden. (Special thanks to Bill Young of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey for help in preparing this section.)
A selection of images that show the construction and growth of a rain garden.

Slide 39: Benefits of Native Plants
They perform better in our local soil, moisture, and light conditions, they do not require supplemental water, fertilizers, pesticides, or excessive labor, trap pollutants-Native plants can store and filter runoff and can remove 94% of sediment, 43% of phosphorus, and 70% of nitrogen pollution from rainwater – USEPA, contributes to desirable wildlife habitat and they have deep root systems (8’-15’) that help soils infiltrate better.

Slide 40: Typical Native Species Used in Gardens
Iris versicolor, Geum triflorum, Lobelia siphilitica, Helenium autumnale, Rudbeckia hirta, Ratibida pinnata, Andropogon scoparius, Bouteloua curtipendula.
Images of each of the examples mentioned above.

Slide 41: Water Conservation
Use less water, assess needs, use water saving devices, water early in the day, use drought tolerant plants, retain water, use mulch, capture runoff (rain barrels/gardens). See the NJDEP website for more information on water conservation:

Slide 42: Attracting Wildlife
All wildlife needs the following elements to thrive: Food, Water, Cover and Places to Raise Young.

Slide 43: Butterfly Gardens
Attracting these “flying flowers” is easy to do! Your Butterfly Garden needs to provide: water; a mud or sand puddle is recommended, shelter from wind and rain, open sunny areas for basking and appropriate plants rich in nectar!
2 close-up photos of monarch butterflies taken at the Cape May City Elementary Schools' garden.

Slide 44: Bat Houses
A single bat can eat hundreds of insect pests each night! Bats rarely carry rabies and no bat in the USA feeds on blood! Place your bat house(s) near, but not within, vegetation. Multiple houses often encourage nursery colonies.

Slide 45: For the BIRDS!
Birds will be your most frequent and obvious visitors to your garden. Even more will come if you provide: multiple feeders with different types of seeds, hummingbird feeders, suet, natural peanut butter or fresh fruit, crushed eggshells for calcium, protection from predators.

Slide 46: Special Needs Students
ACCESS NATURE is an inclusive outdoor education curriculum guide prepared by the National Wildlife Federation that addresses the needs of students with a variety of disabilities. ACCESS NATURE Workshops are offered throughout the year.

Slide 47 & 48: The Urban Environment
Photograph of very congested city street.
Did you notice that there actually was a tree in that picture. The built environment does not always include vegetation, but it does include air, water, sunlight, and lots of people. Does this imply that an urban center is not a good location for a Schoolyard Habitat? On the contrary, the built environment is the best place for a Schoolyard Habitat!!!

Slide 49 & 50: Wildlife in the City!
Bats, skunks, raccoons, opossums, moles, squirrels, numerous insects, birds (not just pigeons). The NJDEP Peregrine webcam website: Remember: A small amount of space is all you need!
It may be difficult to create a Schoolyard Habitat in a city, where open space is at a premium. But plantings are not the only thing students can do. The urban environment has its own native wildlife.

Slide 51 & 52: Bringing it HOME!
Food, water, cover, places to raise young, composting and water conservation.
5 photos to demonstrate that what is learned at school can be applied at home too.

Slide 53: Visit us Today!
An image of the Schoolyard Habitat website.

Slide 54: Developing a Schoolyard Habitat
Schools Featured: Ocean Twp. Intermediate School, Indian Hill School, Copper Hill School, Cape May City Elementary School.

Slide 55: Developing a Schoolyard Habitat
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education.

Slide 1: Title Slide
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Fish & Wildlife

Slide 2: You’ve stuck your neck out and decided you want to improve wildlife habitat on your school grounds.

Slide 3: You want to transform your new or existing schoolyard into a wildlife haven. (East Greenwich Twp. School)

Slide 4: The first thing you need to do is involve the students.

Slide 5: Students should be instrumental in deciding what habitat currently exists and what can be expected given habitat alteration. The process of developing a plan is as important as product.

Slide 6: Consider the basics when thinking about management: the process will be the same for all wildlife.

Slide 7: Start with the soil because wildlife is a product of the land: find out what are the capabilities and limitations of your soil.

Slide 8: Habitat is food, cover or shelter, water and space

Slide 9: Shelter can be structural as well as vegetative.

Slide 10: Water can be in the form of a created pond or marsh, or a stream or river, or even a ditch.

Slide 11: Space is the hardest component to provide, and it may be an elusive variable in your management equation. A pair of eastern bluebirds needs 5 acres of land while a pileated woodpecker needs 100.

Slide 12: Habitat components must be in an arrangement suitable for the species in question.

Slide 13: A corridor of suitable cover and food must be present for species to travel throughout their range. You can think of travel corridors as a boardwalk that allows passage through a wetland as was done at the Allumuchy School in Warren County.

Slide 14: Arrangement is often considered on a grander scale: how does your habitat relate to the larger landscape? Are you near large parcels of protected habitat?

Slide 15: What is your watershed address? Are you in the Pinelands or in the Highlands? Your geology and soils will dictate what species you might possibly attract.

Slide 16: Even in urban areas you can expect to attract wildlife. The Saw Mill Creek WMA is in the shadow of NYC and provides good habitat for wading birds, ducks, fish, etc.

Slide 17: Obstacles to projects in urban areas may seem insurmountable,

Slide 18: but help from groups like Isles, Inc. in Trenton, Greater Newark Conservancy in Newark and the Urban Ecology Program can provide assistance. (School garden in Trenton)

Slide 19: Arrangement of habitat components in nature can result in an untidy-looking landscape, and we have to develop an aesthetic appreciation for good wildlife habitat with its vertical and horizontal aspect that provides lots of nooks and crannies.

Slide 20: The concept of edge is one to consider: where fields and meadows meet woodlands, or where a wet woodland meets a stream is an edge or ecotone. Ecotones often provide more habitat than either the river or woodland individually.

Slide 21: Succession is another important consideration: habitat is not static but changes. Fields give way to forests over time. Plan for change in your habitat.

Slide 22: There are many good reasons to intentionally use native plants: plants that are adapted to NJ soils

Slide 23: and have co-evolved with NJ wildlife in terms of seed dispersal and disease resistance.

Slide 24: Native plants are every bit as aesthetically-pleasing as exotics,

Slide 25: and unlike some exotics they won’t colonize whole landscapes choking out and out-competing other plants.

Slide 26: As is the case with Japanese honeysuckle. It’s a good wildlife food plant and readily dispersed by birds but is is very invasive. Contrast that with the blue spruce which is also an exotic. It provides good cover and though it is not native it is not invasive.

Slide 27: Exotics have their place: crown vetch was used extensively in the past to prevent soil erosion on slopes. It forms dense cover for small mammals, and adds nitrogen to the soil.

Slide 28: When planning a schoolyard habitat you must consider all these variables and more!

Slide 29: What results would you like to accomplish? What would you like to see in your garden?

Slide 30: Gardens for butterflies and hummingbirds are popular.

Slide 31: To attract hummingbirds you can buy a commercial sugar-water feeder and clean it meticulously weekly, or you can plant annuals and perennials to draw them in (if you have the right habitat). Cardinal flower is a good attractant.

Slide 32: Tubular red and orange flowers like bee balm (Monarda) are good.

Slide 33: Butterfly bush (Buddleia) is an exotic that is highly attractive to butterflies especially black and tiger swallowtails. Though it is widely sold and used, it is invasive. The dead flower heads should be clipped off to prevent seeds from spreading.

Slide 34: Butterfly weed (Asclepias) is another good choice - native to the Pinelands but not invasive in North Jersey.

Slide 35: White varieties are especially good.

Slide 36: Purple coneflower (Echinacea) provides a good perching place (like all composites) and is a good nectar source for adults.

Slide 37: Consider not only adult nectar sources but larval food sources, too. Herbs like parsley, dill and milkweed are good for some caterpillars.

Slide 38: Besides butterflies, there are numerous other insects.

Slide 39: (mostly bees) that are important to our food supply

Slide 40: because they pollinate flowers. Without pollination, seeds do not effectively set and poor fruit production results.

Slide 41: More than one-third of our food supply is pollinated by honey bees or wild bees.

Slide 42: When you let sunflowers sprout under your bird feeder you can see the whole plant cycle from sprouting to flowering (paying attention to pollinators) and then let the birds reap the harvest of seeds next season.

Slide 43: You can provide forage for pollinators through planting clover. In recent years honey bees have been decimated by a mite that infects their trachea and kills entire colonies. Wild honeybees have already been wiped out.

Slide 44: Water is important for pollinators: the water source should allow insects to take a drink from a rock or log where they won’t drown (Holman School in Jackson).

Slide 45: People want to attract birds to WILD school sites.

Slide 46: Our state bird the goldfinch is easily attracted with sunflowers or thistle.

Slide 47: Arrangement of feeders with cover and water and protected from the wind.

Slide 48: At Moorestown School, students put up suet feeders by natural water supplies for woodpeckers.

Slide 49: Hopatcong HS has a series of gardens in their courtyard, each with a different theme.

Slide 50: Providing bird food can be as simple a letting wild plants take over: wild grape.

Slide 51: Nesting habitat can be provided by encouraging dense cover for things like robins and house finches.

Slide 52: Cavity nesting birds like red-bellied woodpeckers will build their own home in a rotten tree.

Slide 53: They’ll excavate holes that other animals can use. You can leave standing dead trees in place,

Slide 54: or in the absence of dead trees, you can plant them. They add a vertical dimension to your landscape, and are very low maintenance. They might last 3 or 4 years before they become recycled as humus.

Slide 55: The premier cavity-nester that people want to attract is the bluebird.

Slide 56: The Willow Grove School in Hackettstown put up a trail of bluebird houses around their school.

Slide 57: They are surrounded by mature forest, and have just enough open area to attract bluebirds.

Slide 58: Don’t be dismayed if you don’t get bluebirds, but instead get nuthatches or wrens or tree swallows.

Slide 59: As with all real estate, location is everything. This purple martin house will never attract martins because the trees that are within 30 feet of it are much taller and the area is not open enough. Do the research.

Slide 60: Can you tell what mistakes were made putting this house in this location?

Slide 61: Water is an important attraction for birds, too. The sound of running water is a magnet for birds.

Slide 62: The pond that you build just may attract some unusual species.

Slide 63: There is a group of birds that are declining throughout the hemisphere - those species that migrate from their wintering grounds in the tropics to nest in temperate North America.

Slide 64: Birds like the wood thrush don’t come to feeders, and are pretty secretive except for their characteristic song.

Slide 65: They require large tracts of unbroken mature forests to nest in.

Slide 66: Species like the great crested flycatcher, pewee, yellow-rumped warbler and red-eyed vireo are declining and we hardly know they share our space.

Slide 67: Some raptors like the sharp-shinned hawk are also neotropical migrants.

Slide 68: When forests get broken up by development or road building it’s easier for nest predators to travel the new edges and find nests.

Slide 69: The brown-headed cowbird further exacerbates the problem by laying eggs in the nests of songbirds. Their young are raised by the surrogate parents and are often more aggressive and quicker to mature, thereby outcompeting the warblers.

Slide 70: Protecting open space - especially forests - is part of the solution. Growing trees may help. Education has to be part of the whole puzzle.

Slide 71: Bats are increasing in popularity for good reason.

Slide 72: They are intrinsically valuable, and they eat lots of mosquitoes. Students should be encouraged not to handle bats, but appreciation is needed. Bat houses may or may not be effective in attracting bats.

Slide 73: It’s important to convey the need to protect species, whole ecosystems and the genetic diversity within a population. Species are valuable for many reasons - for human’s sake because we use products from nature, because we enjoy looking at or eating wild species, and for the value intrinsic to each living species.

Slide 74: We need to encourage an appreciation for organisms even if they are a potential threat to humans.

Slide 75: Biodiversity is an easy concept to sell when it comes to glamorous species, but we need to be concerned with all levels of the food chain.

Slide 76: The concept of watershed is becoming increasingly important, and one that can be readily demonstrated with a schoolyard project.

Slide 77: As our management becomes more watershed-specific, it is fitting that schools think of themselves as members of a watershed and recognize that what they do on their school grounds can impact the water quality of a body of water. Students should know their watershed address.

Slide 78: Watershed can be demonstrated by looking at land uses surrounding a local pond,

Slide 79: and studying the life forms that often reflect water quality. Herptiles is a catch-phrase for reptiles and amphibians.

Slide 80: Here’s another example of how the pond you build can benefit wildlife.

Slide 81: Bullfrogs and green frogs,

Slide 82: and painted turtles will use a small pond.

Slide 83: Structures like rock or log piles provide nooks and crannies and a food source for small mammals and insects

Slide 84: which in turn attract salamanders

Slide 85: and harmless garter snakes.

Slide 86: Your best efforts may be thwarted by unwanted visitors.

Slide 87: Attitude adjustment may be your best solution to marauding squirrels,

Slide 88: and voracious deer.

Slide 89: There are certainly ways to combat these persistent critters, but again the process may be as important as the product.

Slide 90: Some schools do have to contend with bears at their feeders, and they can actually help teach the community about how to coexist with bears.

Slide 91: The unwanted visitor can be viewed as a treat.

Slide 92: As with people, we should learn tolerance.

Slide 93: We hope this brief introduction encourages you to take on projects that will actively engage your students, and benefit wildlife.

Slide 94: New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Environmental Education Program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection