BackYard Habitat Resources
These resources will help you design a habitat project at your site. When your project is complete, report back to Journey North and tell us how you've helped unpave the way for wildlife!

Part I: Programs, Projects, Curriculum, and Materials
A growing array of Conservation and Environmental Education Organizations support schoolyard projects across the country. We have listed only the "keystone" organizations which have either developed exceptional projects and curriculum, or provide clearinghouses of information on other schoolyard habitat projects. The web sites of the organizations listed below provide an enormous compendium of information on school-based habitat programs, projects, curriculum, and other resource materials.

National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation's school yard and backyard habitat program home pages offer an extensive array of links to other sites, literature, and video resources on: bats, birds, butterflies, community gardening, educational organizations and museums, gardening, hummingbirds, native plants, ponds, water, wetlands, and wildlife. By browsing these pages, you will be exposed to much of the information needed to get started on a schoolyard habitat project.

Project Wild
Project Wild is an interdisciplinary, environmental education program which emphasizes wildlife, ecosystems, and the need for responsible stewardship. The Project Wild curriculum is one of the most broadly used environmental education programs in the country.

Evergreen Foundation
The Evergreen Foundation works to reconnect people with nature through conservation and restoration of natural areas at schools and in communities across Canada and the United States. The Evergreen Foundation's web site includes direction to some funding sources, a listing of community and school ground conservation and environmental education programs, how-to manuals, bibliographies, and links to useful sites.

"Green Teacher"
"Green Teacher" is an environmental education magazine by and for teachers. Published on a quarterly basis, "Green Teacher" is chock full of perspective and practical articles, ready-to-use activities, resources, bibliographic listings, and reviews. Each issue of "Green Teacher" features a specific environmental education theme. For example, the April/May 1996 issue featured initiating and integrating schoolyard habitat programs into the curriculum.

National Gardening Association (NGA)
NGA has developed a variety of teacher education and support programs on teaching science and related disciplines through outdoor (and indoor) gardens. NGA's teacher professional development opportunities include leadership seminars, teacher training, "Growing Ideas," a bi-monthly newsletter, and schoolyard gardening grants.

Project Feederwatch
Project Feederwatch provides thousands of volunteers across the country the opportunity to conduct simple scientific surveys of bird species that frequent backyard feeders. The program is sponsored by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and is conducted from September - March. Project Feederwatch offers educational opportunities to orient students to population dynamics and behaviors of birds that visit feeders at your school sites and to compare your surveys with others.

Part II: Information and Assistance/Federal, State, and Local Agencies

Developing a schoolyard habitat project requires some background information and technical expertise. Fortunately, much of this is readily available from federal, state, and local agencies. Several inquiries to the following agencies can unearth the information you need to initiate or expand a schoolyard habitat project.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the federal agency established to protect and conserve the nation's wildlife resources. The agency contains a storehouse of information on wildlife including birds, both migratory and those that stay in your area all year; butterflies; urban, threatened, and endangered wildlife. The Service is geographically organized in seven regions and supports over 500 national wildlife refuges located across the United States and U.S. territories. Staff at regional offices and national wildlife refuges can provide much information and technical assistance on habitat needs of wildlife in your area and native plants to needed to support them. To locate the regional office and/or national wildlife refuge nearest you go to the federal government listings in your phone book, and locate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of Interior listings. Familiarize yourself with the many other information resources available through the agency, browse the United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceWeb site.

State Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Your state fish and wildlife agency can provide an invaluable resource of information on rare, threatened, and endangered species of birds and other wildlife and plants in your state. Generally, the non-game wildlife program coordinator will be the best resource person for this information. Many state agencies also have county-based offices to serve more specific locales in your state. To locate the fish and wildlife agency office closest you, go to the state government agency listings in your phone book.
Or contact:

  • By E-mail:
  • By Phone: 202- 624-7890

County Conservation District
Formally known as Soil Conservation Districts, County Conservation Districts now serve each of the nation's 3,000 counties. Local conservation district personnel can provide valuable information on native plants appropriate for wildlife in your area. The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACDs) has developed extensive environmental education programming and accompanying materials. Additionally, the NACDs offers grant making opportunities to help schools initiate schoolyard habitat projects. Locate your county conservation district by consulting the county government listings in your phone book. Or, contact The National Association of Conservation Districts

Part III: Special Events
Participating in national special events can be a great way to help you raise awareness and support for your schoolyard habitat projects. Below are listed several of the national special events geared to enhancing awareness of wildlife and the need for conservation of their habitat.

International School Grounds Day (ISGD)
ISGD is celebrated annually the first Friday in May.

International School Ground Day is geared to raise awareness of the value of school grounds as healthier spaces for inspiration, learning, and play. Learn more about the program by visiting the Evergreen Foundation's Home Page.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)
IMBD is scheduled the second Saturday in May, although schools and citizens groups conduct IMBD celebrations through the weeks preceding and following IMBD.
IMBD was originally initiated in 1993 as a day to celebrate the return of millions of migratory birds as they journey northward from wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America to their breeding grounds across the United States and Canada. IMBD has grown to include well over 500 events conducted local conservation organizations, schools, nature centers, museums, national wildlife refuges, and many others. Project staff have developed a user-friendly Organizer's Packet and Educator's Supplement which are updated annually to provide fresh, innovative ideas. Coordinating an IMBD activity with your class or school can be a great way to showcase written work, art, pen pal letters, and other Journey North project based activities. Include Latin American food, crafts, and literature to help students make cultural links.

National Wildlife Refuge Week
NWRW is scheduled the second week of October is accord with the great pulse of southward wildlife migration.

National Wildlife Refuge Week was established to raise awareness of the importance of refuges to wildlife and to people. NWRW offers many opportunities to orient students to the importance of your school site as a habitat "rest stop" for many migratory wildlife species. Most national wildlife refuges have developed educational programs and materials about wildlife and habitats found at their refuge.