High School Honored For Habitat Corridor Project

SALISBURY – The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) awarded Parkside High School a Schoolyard Habitat certification last week for its efforts in creating a Habitat Corridor for native plants and animals.

The federation’s Garden for Wildlife Program recognizes schools each year that have successfully transformed schoolyards into viable habitats for wildlife to thrive and places for students to learn.

Parkside will now join more than 5,000 schools around the nation that have received such an award.

Jerry Kelley, horticulture instructor for the Career and Technology Education (CTE) program, said students have spent the last 14 months creating a ‘T’-shaped area of wildlife that divides the field hockey and football fields.

“More and more people are doing stuff in their own schools to promote environmental literacy,” he said. “You just have to find an area to do it.”

The project began as a study on school ground sustainability, according to Kelley. But the horticulture program had to get permission from school officials before starting.

First, they had to get approval to stop mowing a portion of the grass where the corridor is located, Kelley said, and afterwards requested approval to include native plants, apiaries and bat houses in the vicinity.

“We had to take it one step at a time,” he said.

The corridor and its plants, which span hundreds of yards, now provide shelter, water, food and foliage for birds, bees and other various forms of wildlife, according to Kelley.

“The goal is essentially to provide a reasonable habitat for pollinators,” he said. “A lot of schools and new developments wipe out everything and start anew. It makes it difficult for insects and wildlife to survive.”

As a result of its certification, Parkside will now take part in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, which promotes the preservation and revival of pollinators, such as bees, bats, birds and butterflies.

The “no-mow zone” currently acts as an epicenter for these pollinators and bees that are housed on a neighboring farm can now travel from the apiary to the school’s A+ Garden Center, where plants are housed.
The horticulture students and members of the school’s agriculture club maintain the Corridor on a year-round basis, according to Kelley. But he said the support of community partners, such as the Lower Shore Beekeeper Association, Salisbury University Environmental Department, Ward Museum and more, also keep the area thriving with its guidance.

Recently, the program received an Environmental Protection Agency grant through the Ward Museum to plant 500 native plants along the corridor, according to Kelley and Mark McMullen Bushman, the museum’s director of education and environmental learning.

He said the partnership provides students with various environmental studies and learning opportunities.

“The model of these grants that are recently popular is for students to learn science, leave the classroom, do observational science and do a civic action,” he said.

In recent years, Bushman said the Ward Museum has partnered with the CTE program to conduct water quality tests in Shoemaker Pond and log bird observation journals to an online database.

“We serve them in a number of different ways,” he said.

The NWF is the nation’s largest wildlife conservation and educational organization and has recognized more than 200,000 wildlife habitats since its founding.

“It was good to be recognized,” Kelley said. “We are just doing our part.”