Parts of the Peregrine School campus in South Davis are now wildlife areas with native plants, thanks to some elbow grease from students with assistance and advice from Karlleen Vollherbst, school habitat program coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“I think the idea is new to most people,” school director Lorie Hammond said. “Schools occupy a lot of land, so they can actually be important wildlife corridors for pollinators and birds. Many teachers who like school gardens for growing food and teaching kids haven’t thought about school gardens as wildlife habitat. I actually had not thought about it either, until we got involved with Fish and Wildlife.”
The project that culminated with last Friday’s planting project began many months ago, with the preparation of a 75-page grant application detailing the proposed wildlife area.
“The kids wrote the grant over three months, with guidance from the teachers,” said Carol Fonseca, Peregrine’s science teacher. “They mapped the proposed wildlife area, they did soil testing and they did a biodiversity assessment, identifying and counting the existing plants, as well as insects and other invertebrates that were already there.
“They planned which native plants would go into the wildlife area, so that there would be something for the birds and pollinators in each season of the year. And they did the budget, too.”
The budget got a boost in December, when Peregrine received a $3,900 grant to fund the creation of two small wildlife areas at the school’s campus on Lillard Drive. The project involves a pollinator garden in the front of the school, and an oak woodland area in the back.
Fifth-grader Nieyah Foster explained that in the oak woodland area, “we made paths, and planted California poppies and grasses.”
Sixth-grader Jackie Wallace stressed that the plants are species that are native to California. Plants included yarrow, deer grass, elderberry, California poppies, valley oaks and hummingbird sage.
Sixth-grader Tess Boutin mentioned that the students had put down mulch to help retain moisture around the new plantings. Her classmate Isabella Yan added that while the mulching took some time, the area soon will become more attractive to hummingbirds (already present on campus), pollinating insects, lizards, squirrels and other living things.
Vollherbst of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the goal of the project is to “attract different pollinators and birds to a space just outside the classroom building, where students can learn from the habitat, and play, and observe wildlife over time.”