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The Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) – Plymouth Canton Community Schools (PCCS) Schoolyard Habitat Project was designed to meet several goals for the Rouge River watershed and the school community. The project provided a series of habitat restoration areas at local schools to address watershed management objectives for stormwater quality enhancement and public outreach and education. The projects included a range of expertise: the school community; watershed experts; environmental education experts; and, ecologists. The participating schools presented the full age range (grades 1–12) as well as cross-curricular (science, math, language arts, art, etc.) educational opportunities.

One objective of the project was to provide the necessary resources to enable the schools to plan and implement such an undertaking. Required resources included:

funding (how to pay for the necessary materials for all phases);

ecological design experience (what type of habitat, stormwater improvements and plants);

curriculum development (how to teach in an outdoor setting and incorporate these lessons into required standards); and,

planning guidance (what are the effective steps to create a useful project).

Secondary objectives included raising awareness of the Rouge River watershed and impact on quality of the river. Involving FOTR achieved both and allowed for involvement in the Rouge Education Project (REP)(school based educational activities, including water quality monitoring) and the Public Involvement Activities (storm drain stenciling, Frog and Toad survey, Macroinvertebrate surveys, etc.). The project also introduced watershed activities to many community members including the PCCS district staff, school administrations/staff, local businesses (donations), and parents (volunteer help), not to mention the students themselves. With the involvement of over 850 people throughout the process from initiation to planting days, this project has reached a broad initial audience. The continued use and monitoring of the habitat areas will continue to introduce (new students) and teach people about native plants, pollution reduction, stormwater management, and naturalized educational settings. Most importantly, they will gain a perspective on their role in the watershed, including stewardship and protection.

The project dictated that planning and design of habitat projects would take place during the late fall and winter and planting installations in the spring. Teacher training with an environmental education curriculum was held in August 2003 to better allow the teachers to understand how to teach in their new outdoor classrooms. Each participating school was certified as a Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a means of maintaining interest in the future of the projects. Each school had a project team compiled of teachers, staff, students and/or parents. Of the five schools involved, a variety of habitats were planned based on targeted grade levels. Two elementary schools created frog ponds and meadow areas. The two middle schools created butterfly gardens with rain gardens while the high school campus started Phase 1 of the Willow Creek restoration. Each project used native plant materials to reduce turf areas (lessen mowing needs), increase infiltration, and provide valuable wildlife habitat. All projects planted trees, shrubs and built bird houses as forms of food and shelter for various animal species.

The project was funded by a grant from the Rouge Project Office (Wayne County) and was matched by material donations and volunteer time (in-kind services). The outcome of the project provided small-scale projects that may be applied to a wide range of settings to provide outdoor learning opportunities and stormwater management. Providing adequate planning, coordination, and expertise was key in the success of the projects, for both implementation and broad public outreach/education.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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