WASHINGTON (April 30, 2004)—Students at five elementary schools across the nation have been declared “habitat heroes” by National Geographic Explorer! magazine. Their designs for schoolyard habitats were the winning entries in the magazine’s Habitat Hero contest. To help create the habitats, each school will receive $1,000 and a visit from a professional forester from International Paper.
International Paper and the National Geographic Society’s Education Foundation sponsored the contest, whose purpose was to increase children’s knowledge of their local environment and to give them an opportunity to take an active role in promoting positive change in their schools and communities.
“The entries showed that today’s kids value the environment. They are willing to work hard to preserve it so they and future generations can enjoy it. They are setting an example for us all,” said Fran Downey, executive editor of National Geographic Explorer!.
To prepare their entries, students carefully researched their local habitats and developed a plan for a schoolyard habitat. The habitats include plants and features such as ponds or walkways. In some cases the habitats will serve as outdoor classrooms and community parks.
– Fourth-grade students at Franklin School, Newark, N.J., the city’s only dual-language school, planned their habitat to be built in the front of the school, making it accessible to the surrounding community as well. The students hope to attract blue jays and American crows with a pond stocked with fish, water lilies, bog plants and perennial plantings.
– The fourth- and fifth-grade science class at Frank Allis Elementary School, Madison, Wis., plans to create a savannah habitat with native plants, adjacent to a prairie restoration project where students discovered a fox den. They will be helped by members of the “Mighty Acorns” science club, other fifth-graders and the local community.
– Third- to fifth-graders at Southwestern Elementary school in Jamestown, N.Y., childhood home of birding-guide author Roger Tory Peterson, hope the three gardens they plan to build will inspire future generations of naturalists. Native plants and trees planted in a broken-egg shape will become a wild bird garden and outdoor classroom. Flowerbeds in the shape of a flower will feature masses of different flowers in each “petal” to attract hummingbirds. A butterfly garden will be shaped like a butterfly.
– The fifth-grade honors reading class at Hidden Hills Elementary School in Phoenix, Ariz., elected to create an environment for an endangered animal — the desert tortoise. Students reasoned that since the reptile is long-lived (80 to 100 years), and the school has 700 students, as many as 70,000 students could learn about the creature and its habitat in the next century.
– Fifth-graders at City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, Minn., will build a bird habitat outside their classroom with many avian amenities — a bird bath, bird feeders, a trellis with creepers that provide nesting sites and an old log with mushroom spores to attract woodpeckers or to be used as a nesting site.
“As the world’s largest private landowner and tree seedling grower, International Paper cares deeply about protecting habitats,” said George O’Brien, IP’s senior vice president, forest products. “All of our efforts to protect the places where animals and plants live are very important. We congratulate the winning teams and look forward to working with them on their winning designs.”
National Geographic Explorer! is a classroom magazine for students in grades three to six. Sponsored by International Paper Company Foundation and the National Geographic’s Education Foundation, the magazine is part of the Society’s initiative to improve elementary school students’ nonfiction literacy skills while providing high-quality science and social studies content. The literacy campaign aims to enhance children’s proficiency in reading and writing nonfiction texts so they can better understand information-based material. National Geographic Explorer! and other Society educational products can be ordered by calling 800-368-2728.