Buck Institute for Education

Schoolyard Habitat Project

Author: Erica Baker

What will my students be doing?

In Schoolyard Habitat Project, students design and implement a plan to enhance their school campus by creating insect habitats, providing nesting sites for birds, planting native plants or even removing weeds and invasive plants.

What's Included:

  • Project Overview
  • 8 Essential Elements of PBL
  • Sequence of the Project
  • Step-By-Step Teaching Guide
  • Student Handouts
  • Teacher Materials

Current Version: January 10, 2018

Diminishing school district budgets and increasing demands on teachers can make it seem difficult to take students to a place where they can study and interact with the natural environment. However, just outside the classroom door, whether in a city surrounded by high-rise buildings or in a rural community at the base of a mountain range, students can see or find evidence of living creatures. All of these organisms, from the tiniest ant to the largest elk, need healthy habitat: food, water, shelter, space, and the proper arrangement of these components.

In the Schoolyard Habitat Project students become engaged learners as they research, design and implement a plan to enhance their school campus by creating insect habitats, providing nesting sites for birds, planting native plants or even removing weeds and invasive plants from the school grounds. Habitat enhancement efforts do not need to be elaborate in design with expensive price tags in order to provide meaningful, tangible results for the students. This project emphasizes simple, low or no-cost student-led actions to make a difference in their community, their school.

NOTE: May be modified for grades 6-12; see Secondary Addendum, page 56 in Project Document.

Project Notes

  • Subjects: ELA, Science
  • Grade Level: 3rd, 4th, 5th
  • Common Core Aligned
  • Time Required: 10-15 Hours
  • CC BY

Sponsored By


The Pacific Education Institute and the National Environmental Education Foundation, who helped sponsor this project guide, want to connect students with local environments while engaging them in real-world science. These organizations develop projects like this so that students can simply step out of the school doors and participate in hands-on learning in a local environment – whether they are in the middle of a big city or in a rural area. While the habitat and wildlife species will vary from school site to school site, every schoolyard is important because these sites, regardless of size, play a role in enhancing biodiversity in communities. Even in the heart of an urban environment, students can positively impact habitat for insects and birds! The creators of this project are dedicated to empowering teachers to facilitate students as they develop a sense of ownership for their learning and a desire to positively impact their communities – resulting in students who are prepared to be part of 21st Century environmental solutions.

Student Work

Field Work
Conducting the School Site Description view photo »
Bird Feeders
Example of Schoolyard Enhancement - Bird Feeding Stations view photo »
Preparing to Plant a Garden on School Site view photo »

Project Documents

Project Author

Erica is an Educational Consultant in Washington State who works with non-profit organizations, national and state agencies, education service districts, school districts, teachers and students.  During the past seven years, she has developed curriculum, trained natural resource professionals, implemented educator professional development workshops, mentored teachers and involved K-12 students in real-world opportunities that address state learning standards and connect students with local environments.

Prior to her current role, Erica acquired ten years of classroom teaching experience, serving in a variety of positions, including a Fifth-grade Teacher, Intermediate School Science Teacher, Middle School Science Teacher and a Language Arts Specialist.

Erica received her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas A&M University with a certification in Elementary Science and a specialization in Middle School Science.  She earned her M.A. in Technology in Education through Lesley University.