Students at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts saw their schoolyard habitat start to take shape on Friday, May 15.
With the guidance of teachers at the school, Dr. Dennis Bartow, education outreach coordinator for the Center for Inland Bays (CIB), and Sarah Toman, a senior educator with Environmental Concern who assisted in finalizing the site plan after students designed it, the students learned about wetlands and their importance and also started planting their habitat.
The habitat is in the shape of an artist’s palette. Portions will eventually resemble the different paint colors a palette might have, by using colors of different flowers to emphasize the design. The students planted 27 different species of native plants, for a total of 1,200 in all.
Bartow said the old dugouts on the site will eventually be incorporated into the design as lookout spots for native species they hope to attract. Also, stepping stones designed the first year the school was in existence, 11 years ago, will be used in the design, to “meld past with present,” said fifth-grade teacher Becky Burton.
Throughout the day, students each of the schools grades, first through eighth, came outside to participate in the lesson.
The core purposes of the schoolyard habitats are to provide a habitat for wildlife and a sanctuary for native plants, and to aid in groundwater purification, as well as to teach.
“Wetlands are the sponge of the environment,” noted Bartow, back in April. “They detoxify the pollutants and, in helping the groundwater, you are helping the bays because everything drains to the bays.”
“It’s a field trip they can do without buses,” he offered.
The partnership between the Center for the Inland Bays and the Indian River School District was formed in 2006, to bring schoolyard habitats to elementary schools in the Inland Bays Watershed.
The center has already created habitats at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School in Selbyville and Long Neck Elementary in Millsboro. In 2008, Indian River High School and East Millsboro Elementary School had their own habitats built. On May 29, Sussex Central High School will be the next school to plant their habitat.
For more information, visit inlandbays.org and click on “education.”