New School Sanctuary Is For The Birds

Daniela Brighenti PhotoAfter months of working with worms and dirt, kindergartens joined in and pretended to be worms themselves.

They staged a dance as part of the Bishop Woods Executive Academy’s unveiling of a new schoolyard habitat on Wednesday, an event that was all about teamwork. The habitat features a garden and a butterfly and bird sanctuary.

The group of kindergartens was one of many others who demonstrated to the audience what the new schoolyard will mean for the school, its students and Connecticut wildlife.

“We have all been laying on the ground, pulling out weeds, laying mulch, every day,” said the partnership coordinator of the Schoolyard Habitat Committee, Cara Campo. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s great work. I didn’t anticipate the collaboration and camaraderie that would develop.”

Bishop Woods is the sixth school in town to complete a habitat in conjunction with environmental groups.

The work on the habitat started back in the fall of 2015 when the school first acquired a grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Connecticut. The work ramped up in the last six weeks as students, staff and parents alike gathered daily to plant the final touches on the yard.

Bishop Woods principal Rosalind Garcia praised the teamwork. She said a project like this helps a school “really move forward.”

“It’s about each person doing a little bit more than what’s expected of them,” Garcia said before she cut the ribbon to the new schoolyard. “And now, it’s here for you, it’s here for the community, and it’s here for the student.”

According to Williams, the new schoolyard will allow students to participate in “authentic and engaged learning,” such as carrying out year-long research projects on local wildlife.

“This is a classroom, this is the kind of learning we want to see happening in New Haven Public Schools,” Harries said. “It’s not just sitting in class, it is also about being engaged. We are planting seeds that will continue to grow for many years yet to come.”

In addition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon, Common Ground High School, the Van Wilgens Garden Center, and the Yale Peabody Museum all played supportive roles in the completion of the new habitat.

Conte West Hills School pllans unveil its habitat in the fall. East Rock Community Magnet School and Edgewood School are in the second phase of their projects; Columbus Family Academy, Barnard Environmental Studies School and Worthington Hooker School are now on their third stage of work.

“Our vision is to get as many schools in Connecticut as possible involved in the program,” said Francesca Williams, schoolyard habitat curriculum and evaluation consultant at Audubon. “To really build a patchwork of viable habitats.”

Campo said though it is still early to tell what the next years will mean for the habitat, they have considered using the Bishop Woods Bird Sanctuary —  located right behind the school —  for “Phase 2.”

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