Suburban and urban green spaces, including schoolyards, can provide useful habitat to migrating birds, and can host high concentrations of them. The BirdSleuth Garden Grant program, established by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Alaska® fertilizer, encourages teachers to create bird-friendly, kid-friendly gardens that provide a wonderful space where kids can watch, enjoy, and count birds. “Inspiring future gardeners with hands on experience growing bird habitat and garden fresh foods and providing teachers with supporting STEM curriculum is what this program is all about,” says Brian Thille, Senior Director of Marketing at Alaska®. Research shows that students who participate in school gardens and spend more time outside are not only healthier and happier, but score significantly higher on science achievement tests.
Kristen J. Szewczyk, a garden grant recipient from Intermediate Unit 1 Educational Campus at East Franklin, says that their school garden “is not only providing enriching opportunities for our students, it is educating them about their personal impact of birds’ natural habitats and populations.” Several of the educators are even incorporating citizen science projects, such as eBird, into the classroom.
Selecting the ten schools that received grants in 2016 was an extremely difficult task. “This was a very competitive process,” explains Lindsay Glasner from the Cornell Lab. “More than 500 schools across the country applied for these grants.”
The sheer number of applications in the first year of the program emphasized the interest among educators and the struggle many have in establishing and maintaining a garden. Now in the second year of the grant program, the Cornell Lab and Alaska® want to give even more educators the chance to create a school garden.
You can help give more students access to a school garden just by fertilizing your own garden! During May 2017, 5% of any Alaska® fertilizer product you purchase in-store at Lowe’s® will support the garden grant program. Hundreds of students have already benefited from the garden grant program and with your help we can reach even more.
Spread the word!