How Can I Bring More Wildlife To Our Outdoor Classroom/Backyard Learning Garden?
Are you struggling with how to attract birds, butterflies, and interesting bugs for children to explore in your outdoor classroom? Do you look at a blank cement top and think, “There’s no way any animal would want to visit here?” Or do you suffer from imposter syndrome and say to yourself, “I’m not a gardener and have a brown thumb”? Or is it that are you a teacher/parent who just does not have time to create a beautiful garden for curious animals to visit?
We all could use a little extra time to concentrate on all the things; especially, while building a successful and sustainable Outdoor Classroom. The thing is, finding balance, as educators and parents, can be especially tough, but when it comes time to create a new garden in your Outdoor Classroom, that can seem impossible.
Today, I will walk you through 5 ways to incorporate Garden the 5 Elements for a Garden That Attracts Wildlife. These features will help you build an Outdoor Classroom that both you and your children love.
Gardens that Attract Wildlife incorporates food, shelter, water, sustainable practice, and places to raise young. They are havens for butterflies, bugs, and birds and can be certified by the National Wildlife Federation.
Step 1: Plant FOOD for Wildlife
Choosing the best plants for your Wildlife Garden will be a little different for everyone, as it truly depends on the zone that you are in. Start small and check your local nursery for the 3 best Native Plants for your area. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing plants; especially if this is something new to you. By choosing only 3 plants, your success rate is going to increase
For those who don’t have a green space to plant in the ground, consider planting in 3 different size pots (small, medium, and large).
Easy to grow plant suggestions that children love:
- Butterfly Bush
- Cone Flowers
Step 2. Create SHELTER for Wildlife
Where do animals find shelter? Many animals like to find shelter in the trees, shrubs, and even in the plantings, you may have added for FOOD. Add additional features that invite all different types of animals throughout all seasons. Invite the children to join the fun in creating a variety of different animal shelters and test their shelters with the “water challenge.”
- Make DIY Bird & Bat Houses out of recycled materials
- Encourage children to leave fallen leaves for all the insects underneath.
- Add a variety of logs and add a sign that says “Decomposing in Session.” Teach children to roll logs carefully to enable them to see life under the log.
A steady stream of water is perfect for attracting birds and also provides food for insects. This past summer I added a solar-powered fountain to my bird bath. It’s fantastic! It not only attracts birds, it also provides a calming sound of the water.
- Make shallow puddles
- Add Bird Baths
- Add a Solar Power Fountain
Step 4: SUSTAINABLE PRACTICE for Wildlife
This step simply speaks to how to take care of your Wildlife Garden.
Step 5. PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG
Ask yourself and your children where they think a young bird, caterpillar, and/or ladybug would like to call home. Then ask what could they add to your outdoor environment that invites animal families to raise their young.
Here are a few ideas:
- Host plants with big leaves to lay eggs on
- Make a Water Garden or Pond
- Make spaces for burrows
It’s important to remember that creating a Garden that Attracts Wildlife, is about designing an outdoor space where children can build a relationship with animals. As a child, I had the good fortune to have been gifted a section of our yard to create my own garden. I often talked about this act of brilliance with my parents, but they had no memory of my time in my little secret garden on the other side of the house. I think they were just happy that I was able to amuse myself and stay out of their hair. I was, by no means a gardener at this point, but, I instinctually, like many children, loved being in the dirt and playing with all my animal friends.
You see, most of us are in the “still trying to figure it out how stage of teaching outdoors”, and that does not have to be a bad thing. When trying anything new, there is A LOT of trial and error that goes with it. There is no exception when planting a Garden that Attracts Wildlife. and trying to figure out the best elements to add.
Want more? Come check out our Create a Pollinator Garden workshop. There are significant differences between gardening for art and beauty and gardening for pollinators. Join us and learn about pollinators, their characteristics, and their needs. Discover how to connect pollinator gardens to a nature-based curriculum, gardening practices needed to create a healthy habitat for pollinators, and the best plants for pollinator gardens.