AP NEWS

Whitby creates a ‘mini-Audubon’ in its schoolyard

May 28, 2019

GREENWICH — Librarian Alexis Ryan has tended the gardens around the pond in front of the Whitby School for years, involving her young students in clearing, planting and harvesting.

So many of her students worked on the project that she set her sights on improving the pond, which had been overgrown with a thorny weed called rosa flora.

The Whitby community raised $100,000 to fund the revitalization, which was completed this year. Audubon Connecticut recognized it as a Schoolyard Habitat, an official designation created by the society in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation.

“It shows that our school is a steward of the environment,” Ryan said.

Whitby is the 29th school to attain a certified Schoolyard Habitat, alongside its neighbor, Parkway School, Brunswick School and Armstrong Court.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to partner with quite a number of communities across Connecticut from here to New Haven,” said Ted Gilman, senior director of Audubon Greenwich. “It’s wonderful seeing a number of wonderful members of our community joining in this effort.”

The partnership looks to secure a long-term commitment from schools to improve the quality of the schoolyards for the native wildlife and for learning potential, Gilman said.

Audubon helps the school organize and form plans for management, but long-term management and development is the responsibility of the school. Already, school teachers have incorporated the pond and garden in lessons about sustainability and ecosystems.

“It’s a way to almost look at it like we have a mini-Audubon on our property,” Ryan said.

Gilman was enthusiastic about the teachers’ eagerness to incorporate the pond into their teaching.

“It’s been nice to see them using the habitat in a variety of ways across grade levels,” he said.

Much of the effort has been student-driven, said Ryan, who led the effort. Along the pond, walkers can read signs about the interactions between plants and animals. Students conducted research to write the blurbs, and Ryan designed the signs.

“We just think it’s important,” Ryan said. “It shows the students it’s important to care for the environment, give them a lot of learning opportunities that will follow them for life.

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.