Native Habitat Gardens provide Important “islands” of Biodiversity on School Campuses

logo googleThrough a grant from Google, Living Classroom will integrate an important citizen science element to several of our native ecology lessons beginning in the 2016-17 school year. We provide ecology lessons in the 23 native habitat gardens we created and maintain in Mountain View, Los Altos and Palo Alto which each feature 30-40 species of native perennials, shrubs, trees, and groundcovers. Although each garden features some common species essential to our lessons, they all have their unique plant palette tailored to the particular site on the school campus.

By using the iNaturalist app through our ecology lessons based in native habitat gardens the students can document the native species within each school and the wildlife visiting or living in the gardens. This can serve to provide data about how even small “islands” of native plant biodiversity can impact wildlife biodiversity and concentrations. It also has the important effect of truly engaging students, by the thousands, in a real-world citizen science effort that will have lasting impact on the students’ understanding and appreciation of the importance of science in informing habitat conservation and restoration.

Using iNaturalist provides exciting service learning and provide a creative interface for students to become interested in observing organisms found in their local community. iNaturalist allows for online photos and sharing written exchanges between teacher, naturalists, and students. Students also enjoy the “competition” of obtaining research-grade data.

We will also investigate using tools to track monarch butterflies attracted to the native milkweed planted in our native habitat gardens. Students collect data in the field while contributing directly to efforts in the west to gain further knowledge on milkweed and breeding monarch locations.

Want to learn more? Contact Vicki Moore at