New paradigms for local ecological restoration
By Vicki Moore, Founder, Living Classroom
Over the last year, Living Classroom began its work to create two new paradigms addressing critical needs for the future: a new local model for urban and suburban ecological restoration, and a new local model for creating ecologically literate students and young environmental stewards.
There is a movement afoot to dramatically change the way we view landscaping as strictly ornamental to habitat creating. With path breaking books, research studies and reports on this topic, including here in Silicon Valley, it’s clear that there is great potential to restore our local ecology through a constellation of biodiverse and native gardens and landscaping amidst our urban and suburban layout.
School grounds are an important component to this ecological resilience movement as they comprise many acres scattered across our communities and offer an amazing educational benefit for not only students, teachers and parents but also a broader neighborhood base that uses the school grounds on a regular basis. They can provide environmental health benefits such as urban carbon and runoff sequestration, air quality improvement, and ecological resiliency and are important components of green infrastructure as well as key places for learning about our local ecology.
A new paradigm for creating environmentally literate students
The best way to raise a new generation that will care about and act to protect nature is to provide frequent experiences in the natural world for children, starting at a very young age. Schoolyards are now critical spaces for educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards—they can be ecological learning laboratories.
Children’s sense of wonder awakens as they find life teeming in a handful of soil or nurture a seed into a healthy plant to be harvested and enjoyed in a delicious meal with their classmates. Living Classroom’s lessons which involve restoring the habitat of a threatened species teach students that they can make a tangible difference in the world. Later, as adults, those students are informed by an ecological understanding and conscience. Green schoolyards which include native habitat gardens and landscaping are a central piece of a wider vision to restore our relationship with the natural world. We have the power to bring nature to every child, every day, while improving our local ecosystems, learning environments, and health.
At Living Classroom, nature is our teacher. We know that understanding the principles that sustain ecosystems requires basic ecological knowledge. Many of the central principals of ecology are variations on a single fundamental pattern of organization; nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities. Organisms cannot exist long in isolation. Animals, plants, and micro-organisms live in webs of mutual dependence.
We involve students as young as second grade from all 22 schools we serve as contributors to several citizen science efforts and linking the habitat areas created on their campus to a larger efforts in Silicon Valley to restore habitat within the suburban framework and to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge about flora and fauna diversity and abundance through citizen science.
Over the next several years Living Classroom will enhance and enlarge school native habitat gardens at schools include wildlife attracting features to school grounds to provide the following important benefits:
We are partnering with Canopy, the Palo Alto-based urban forestry organization, to make the native tree planting and landscaping projects into meaningful and educational community volunteer events and have made major headway in our efforts at Graham and Crittenden Middle Schools in Mountain View.
We’re installing simple wildlife attracting features including insect hotels and water elements. Our Theuerkauf school native garden has received National Wildlife Federation certification as a wildlife garden.
And thanks to volunteer designer extraordinaire Patricia Campbell, Living Classroom has a beautiful interpretive sign about why we should all plant native plants that attract pollinators.