School Ground Habitat for People and Wildlife (E2583)

November 9, 2015

Purchase item on


The interrelationships among living things and their physical environment are usually numerous and complex. This abundance and complexity provide organisms, especially humans, with a wealth of opportunities to prosper. Benefits to animals may be in terms of survival, growth and reproduction; to humans, greater appreciation and accumulation of wealth. The following information will help you understand how your school grounds can be managed to increase opportunities for improved instruction and appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the environment. At the same time, costs of school operation will be reduced. Objectives, plans, methods and evaluation are also described. Any change usually has both advantages and disadvantages, and people frequently disagree about what is advantageous or disadvantageous. In addition, some people object to any change, regardless of the benefits, and some people are vandals. The following information describes methods that help resolve to some degree these sources of conflict. The goal of this material is to provide teachers with an opportunity to help students better understand their relationship with their environment, each other and their community. The process of creating and maintaining that opportunity will also allow students to implement their skills and knowledge in improving their environment to provide multiple interrelated benefits.

Things You Should Know Before You Start

If you want to create wildlife habitat or maintain a natural area on school grounds or other properties intensively used by people, it is essential to select sites, plants and plant patterns that benefit the people who own, use and maintain the buildings and grounds. Natural areas and wildlife habitat that enhance a school's use, maintenance, enjoyment and instructional value will very likely be appreciated and protected. Habitat that does not provide such enhancement will eventually be eliminated by design, accident or neglect.

Plant Patterns Can Benefit People and Create Wildlife Habitat

  • Windbreaks of trees and/or shrubs reduce building heating costs by up to 40 percent and enhance people's comfort outside by reducing wind speed and wind chill (Fig. 1).
  • Shade trees reduce building temperatures or lower cooling costs by up to 15 percent. They enhance the enjoyment of school grounds by reducing light intensity and summer temperatures (Fig. 2).
  • Rows of plants screen glare, noise, dust and visual distractions (Fig. 3).
  • Rows and masses of plants that create barriers that separate children from hazards such as vehicle traffic, industrial sites, etc. (Fig. 3).
  • Rows and masses of plants create barriers that direct foot traffic and prevent trampling that creates muddy, dusty and icy spots (Fig. 4).
  • Rows and masses of plants reduce the amount and cost of mowing, leaf removal, snow removal and lawn chemicals (fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides) (Figs. 3-6).
  • Filter strips of plants reduce the pollution and eutrophication (over-enrichment) of streams, ponds and lakes (Fig. 7).
  • Artistic and creative placement of appropriate plants improves the appearance of buildings and grounds (Figs. 8 and 9).
  • A variety of plant types and plant groups attracts a variety of animals. This variety creates greater opportunity for learning about and enjoying a diversity of living organisms, communities and their interrelationships (biodiversity).

Tags: landscaping

Related Topic Areas



Glenn R. Dudderar

Michigan State University Michigan State University Close Menu button Menu and Search button Open Close