To help reconnect today's children to the outdoors, National Wildlife Federation assists schools in developing outdoor classrooms called Schoolyard Habitats®, where educators and students learn how to attract and support local wildlife.
These wildlife habitats become places where students not only learn about wildlife species and ecosystems, but also outdoor classrooms where they hone their academic skills and nurture their innate curiosity and creativity.
How Schoolyard Habitats Got Its Start
National Wildlife Federation has encouraged individuals and communities to create and conserve wildlife habitat since 1973, when the Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ program (now called the Certified Wildlife Habitat® program) began.
In 1996, the Schoolyard Habitats program was created to meet the growing interest and distinct needs of schools and school districts in creating and restoring wildlife habitat on school grounds. The program focuses specifically on assisting school communities in the use of school grounds as learning sites for wildlife conservation and cross-curricular learning.
What age groups are involved with Schoolyard Habitats projects?
All ages are involved. From children in day care centers and preschools, and thousands of students in grades K-12, to parents, university students, teachers, administrators, community members, and volunteers, Schoolyard Habitats® projects truly do reach all ages.
How Many Schoolyard Habitats Are There?
The number of certified Schoolyard Habitats® sites grows each day. There are certified schoolyard in every state in the nation and two territories. Certified habitats are also international, with sites in Thailand, Italy, United Kingdom and other countries.
How much land do you need to begin a Schoolyard Habitats® project?
There is no minimum amount of land needed for Schoolyard Habitats® projects. Many schools complete successful projects with no land at all! They build planter boxes and add feeders, bird baths, etc. onto an unused section of their asphalt playgrounds or even on their roofs. They remove areas of asphalt to create new planting areas. Others use their limited amount of green space--such as a small courtyard--to its fullest potential. Smaller projects may focus on attracting and supporting local insects, butterflies, and birds. Schools with more land do everything from restoring native prairie to creating a wetland.
Learn more about planning and creating Schoolyard Habitats with Creating Schoolyard Habitat Sites: A How-To Guide.
Is there anything different about certifying a school versus another kind of site?
Schools, backyards, community and business sites each certify the same way. All must incorporate the four elements of habitat (food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young) and be registered with NWF through our online certification form.
What are the academic benefits to Schoolyard Habitats?
The planning, design, implementation, and on-going monitoring and maintenance of a schoolyard habitat provides endless opportunities to meet and exceed high academic standards across the curriculum.
Learn more about the academic benefits to Schoolyard Habitats >>
Why should I apply for certification as an official Schoolyard Habitats site?
Schools and organizations benefit from certifying their habitat projects in many ways. When a school gets certified, National Wildlife Federation sends the school a press release the school can send to local papers. This publicity helps schools gain additional community support and aids in future fundraising efforts for the schoolyard project. Once certified, schools are also able to order an attractive sign, which they can post to announce and describe their efforts.
In addition, certified schools can receive an online newsletter specifically for educators, and benefit from belonging to this dynamic network of educators and schools involved in habitat restoration and hands-on outdoor instruction.
Most people find that applying for certification is a helpful, tangible goal along the road of habitat restoration. Receiving Schoolyard Habitats® certification from NWF is a huge accomplishment and reason for a school-wide celebration. Certification represents official acknowledgment of a school's hard work and achievements, and provides a new boost of energy for the work that lies ahead to maintain and fully utilize the schoolyard habitat. Certification is just the beginning!
Schoolyard Habitats® is a registered trademark of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Office. National Wildlife Federation has permission to use the trademark Schoolyard Habitats® for its program.