School Habitat Garden

Our school underwent a major renovation from 1993 to 1994. Among the improvements were the addition of a new library and an Intermediate wing. I suggested turning the courtyard created by these new wings into a habitat garden.

Here is a view of the library wing just as the ground was broken for the garden in Fall 1994. Several large rocks were saved from the construction. They were placed by the bulldozers prior to seeding the yard. (94K)

This is a view of the courtyard to the right of the library. Classroom windows view the garden from two sides. (88K)

First, the soil was enhanced by adding horse manure from a local farm. Next, trees and shrubs were planted by parent volunteers. Plants, trees, and shrubs for the garden were all donated by local nurseries and school families. Special attention was given to planting Pennsylvania native plants. Flowers and plants were planted by Cub Scout Bear Dens 1 & 2 Pack 146.

Four bird feeders were made by a mother. Each one is cared for by a class that fills it as needed. A butterfly house was donated by a parent as well. A shallow pond was dug in an area were water tends to stand.

garden photo

Summer 1996 the garden bloomed and gave shelter and food to many birds and insects. Butterfly bushes were alive with many varieties of butterflies. Birds enjoyed the seeds from spent Coneflower and Blackeyed Susans. The shadblows and viburnums gave berries to the birds. Beebalm, phlox, lambs ears and lupines gave their nectar to the bees. (22K)



garden image

This past spring, robins built a nest in the open shelter house in full view of a delighted third grade class. They watched the mother use the strings of jute that were hung on the trees to build her nest. They saw her patiently sit the nest. They rejoiced as the tiny heads could be seen reaching for the offered food. Finally, they saw the fledglings take their first flight. (22K)

We have added labels to our garden that not only identify the plant, but also why it is there. I also developed a resource book in the school's library which offers facts, activities and a planting list.

Our milkweed seedlings self sowed last year.

My daughter had a welcome surprise when she came in August to tend the garden. The Very Hungry Caterpillar had come to call!


Learn more about life on a milkweed plant.










Bluebirds were seen checking out the bluebird house this past fall. Perhaps we will be blessed with new residents in the spring.

bluebird icon



Other exciting visitors:






Special things to look for in the garden.

  • Rocks containing fossils of shells and sea worms.
  • Chunks of quartz found during the garden's digging.
  • Bird friendly trees: Dogwood, Sumac, and Serviceberry
  • Berry bushes: Viburnum, Winterberry, American Holly, Pyracantha, High Bush Cranberry, & Choke cherry.
  • Flowers: Beebalm, Milkweed, Veronica, Lupines, daylilies, sedum, Purple Coneflower, Phlox, Asters, violets, Columbine, & Digitalis
  • Interesting ferns, fungus, molds and rotting stumps.
  • Caterpillar Cafe - Parsley and dill are planted each summer for the butterfly larve.

The essential elements to provide in a habitat are: shelter, food, water, and a place to reproduce. We provide all four of them.

Cool Stuff to know:

Beebalm also called Monarda was a tea of the Native Americans. The Colonists drank it as a substitute tea during the tea boycott.

High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus) is called Crampbark by the Native Americans. Its bark was used to relieve cramps.

Serviceberry is called Shadblow because the Native Americans knew when it bloomed that the shad were running in the river.

We keep a compost heap in the far corner of the garden. All cuttings, leaves, and grass clippings go there. Eventually, they feed our garden and its guests.


Pesticides are not used in the garden. When aphids became a problem, some ladybugs were placed on the bushes. They made short work of the problem. Check out: Insects what are they good for?

Insect internet activity - What's buggin you? | Investigating Interesting Insect Information




Online enrichment: Mammals crossword puzzle / Butterfly and moth crossword puzzle / Butterfly internet hunt / Birds of the meadow puzzle / Bats

Other stuff: Tours of garden / Fields, fencerows and Meadows Study Unit / Wetlands / Outside-In showcases / Bluebirds at school / Milkweed & Monarch Butterfly Mania

hummingbird flies over flowers

The school's habitat garden has been certified as both a Backyard Habitat
and a Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

1994-2000 Garden keeper: Cindy O'Hora


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©1997 Cynthia O'Hora All rights reserved. Updated 7/2008 Posted 10/1997 by Cindy O'Hora

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