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CREC Discovery Academy's Butterfly Garden Recognized by National Wildlife Foundation
(Wethersfield, Conn.) Students and staff at CREC Discovery Academy in Wethersfield successfully created a Certified Schoolyard Habitat® in the butterfly garden outside their school. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, approved the recognition through their Garden for Wildlife program, officially on October 8.
Discovery Academy joins over 5,000 schools nationwide that have transformed their schoolyards into thriving wildlife habitats that provide essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. The habitat, part of the school’s Bioswale (rain garden) installed in spring 2019, also serves as an outdoor education site where students can engage in cross-curricular learning in a hands-on way. Certification also makes the NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitats for pollinators.
“We are excited to have another school join our growing list of more than 5,000 certified Schoolyard Habitats,” said Liz Soper, Director of K-12 Programs for National Wildlife Federation. “Kids can now personally experience nature through hands-on learning in an outdoor environment,”
Discovery Academy’s Bioswale is used for scientific plant observations with students. In the spring each year, PreK students release butterflies they hatch in the classroom. The goal was to get the area certified as a wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation. In March, the school’s STEM Coach, Clare Neseralla, applied for and received a $400 mini-grant from the Connecticut Ornithological Association to add more bird and butterfly friendly features to attract wildlife. She also included student-made binoculars and birdhouses.
“I saw the butterfly garden as an opportunity to teach the students about native plants and learn more about the environment,” said Neseralla, an avid gardener who also supports the school’s rooftop garden and PreK garden beds. “The observations of wildlife through binoculars opens up a whole new world of nature. Now that the garden is certified we can promote more gardens in Connecticut by sharing this project and placing the NWF signs in the garden.”
The butterfly garden is a true homegrown project. A Discovery Academy grandfather, Jim Woodworth, helped select and plant the bird and butterfly-friendly plants. All plants purchased are native to Connecticut from the Connecticut Conservancy annual plant sale at Auer Farm in Bloomfield. Students in Kindergarten and parents helped clear a corner of the bioswale for the butterfly garden.
According to NWF, “the Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive… It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provides food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries.” CREC Discovery Academy’s website is http://da.crecschools.org