The Extreme Courtyard Makeover at Kent Meridian High School
Eleventh and 12th grade Environmental Science students at Kent Meridian High School in Kent, Wash. decided to give their school courtyard an extreme green makeover during the 2008-09 school year by turning a grassy area into a schoolyard wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom.
The new and improved courtyard includes four areas: a pond, a butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden and a songbird garden. The students used native plants to provide food and shelter to attract native wildlife.
Dianne Thompson, a teacher at the school, won a Classroom Earth National High School Challenge Grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to help get the project underway.
She started by forming relationships with school staff and local community members who would be instrumental to success. Thompson recruited the woodshop teacher and students to help build benches and bird and bat houses. The benches have encouraged many teachers to take their classes out into the courtyard-they must now reserve the space as they would for the computer lab!
The education director at nearby Woodland Park Zoo heard about the project and asked Thompson to speak at the Engaging Students in Conservation Solutions teacher institute during the summer. One of the workshop coordinators was inspired to partner with Thompson's students as part of her Master's degree program and has taught the Environmental Science classes how to conduct arthropod field research. Since then, Kent Meridian students have worked with both the Woodland Park Zoo and Kent City Parks to maintain a newly adopted park adjacent to school campus.
The new schoolyard wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom at Kent Meridian High School has made an impact on both the environment and the students. Conducting research with the Woodland Park Zoo, Environmental Science students found greater biodiversity in their own courtyard than in the nearby city park. Encouraged by their pride in their work and their teacher, Mrs. Thompson, many of the students have successfully written grants, bringing worm and compost bins and an edible garden to the courtyard.
"This was the first year Environmental Science was offered at our school and I had no curriculum, no textbook and no experience," Thompson said. "The grant I received through NEEF made everything possible, and it was the greatest year I've ever had teaching. This year the program has doubled in size, we have received another grant and we are expanding on everything we began last year."
Submitted by Dianne Thompson, Kent Meridian High School
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