Native Village
Youth and Education news
 MAY 1, 2010   VOLUME 2

Creating Habitats for Learning
Doreen Cubie
Condensed by Native Village

Colorado: In 2005, students at Southern Ute Indian Academy created a "Certified Wildlife Habitat"  endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation. Every day, students gather to study the plants and animals found on the reservation.

“The children really seem to enjoy learning when they’re out here,” says Linda Daniels, the school’s health coordinator.

The NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat program encourages teachers and students to develop havens for wildlife on their school grounds. The grounds are also become outdoor classrooms for a wide range of subjectst.

Southern Ute Academy, a K-6 school, was the first tribal school in the country to receive NWF certification for its on-campus habitat. Since then, 9 other tribal schools in New Mexico, Arizona and South Dakota have joined nearly 3,500 U.S. schools with NWF certification.  Other tribal schools are now creating their own gardens.

“Teaching Native American students about their culture is an extra component of tribal schoolyard habitats,” said Alexis Bonogofsky from NWF’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program. “It’s also a way to increase their interest in science and natural resources, and hopefully start some of the students down the road to a career in one of these fields.” 


“It gives us all kinds of reasons to get them outside,” says teacher Bill Foxx from Blackwater Community School on the Gila River Indian Reservation. His students have built birdhouses and are caring for two “adopted” desert tortoises. The tortoises were rescued by state authorities and placed at the school.

Linda Daniels sai getting children outside was another reason for their habitat project. They began by building a pond -- a “huge volunteer effort, with many parents and older kids helping,” Daniels said. The tribe's wildlife and maintenance departments helped, too. They also built a drip irrigation system.

Near the pond is a butterfly, bee and hummingbird garden, along with Native plants transplanted from other parts of the reservation. These include sage, snowberry, buffalo berry, currant and chokecherry.

Biology and botany are taught in the garden along with lessons in writing, art, poetry, music and math.  “We’ve integrated the wildlife habitat into much of our curriculum,” Daniels said.  "The habitat really helps us reconnect the students not only to nature, but also to their heritage. It’s very rewarding.”

Learn more about the NWF school program
 Tribal Lands Conservation Program

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