About Summit

Using Schoolyard Habitats to Benefit Coastal Ecosystems
The Rhode Island Environmental Education Association (RIEEA) is committed to promoting high quality environmental education that increases the environmental literacy of all children and adults in our state. Several board members of RIEEA would like to present an interactive workshop that highlights opportunities and challenges related to habitat restoration projects with schools. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) Schoolyard Habitat (SYH) Program develops habitat projects that are created by students, for students. SYH projects are ecologically sound, integrated into the curriculum and designed to encourage long-term stewardship. We would like to share best practices and critical elements to consider, while highlighting how these projects can serve as a tool to communicate with students and the community about climate change.

Creating the next generation of environmental stewards is the most impactful outcome of this program. We would like to enhance the ecological impact of these projects by incorporating a wider variety of restoration techniques. The ideas exchanged during this workshop will enhance our local program and will be shared throughout our community of practice on a regional and national scale.

The SYH Program is unique in its dual focus on restoring habitat and providing resources and professional development to educators to be sure the habitat can be optimized as a teaching tool. Challenges most often faced by schools include maintenance and curriculum integration. We have developed some best practices to help meet these challenges and ensure long-term success. Many of these practices can be applied to projects on other types of properties and can be designed to fit spaces of almost any shape or size. We will also be demonstrating an activity that can be adapted to many grade levels/age groups.

The SYH Program is an example of how we are using habitat restoration to enhance opportunities for informal and formal education. We will address the following in the Education Focus Area: connecting restoration, management and education; bringing the field into the classroom and the classroom into the field; best practices and lessons learned in formal and informal education for all ages; effective communications; working with volunteers; and "nature deficit disorder" including obstacles and opportunities to reconnect with nature.