New Richmond Elementary certified ‘wild’

June 4th, 2009    Author: Marsha Mundy    Filed Under: News

In 1994, the Ohio Division of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife established a program to encourage schools to improve their school yards with a habitat for wildlife that could also serve as a training ground for students.

On Thursday, May 28, New Richmond Elementary School became the 97th school in Ohio and the third in Clermont County to become certified as a Wild School Site. The school was presented with a plaque for the school and two road signs for posting to let the community know that the school is designated as a Wild site.

Under the leadership of sixth grade teacher, Rena Snouffer, New Richmond Elementary students and teachers have created a nature trail and flower garden on the school grounds. Snouffer has been working on the project for more than two years with grant money received from Duke Energy, funding from the PTO, a student council donation and a $1,000 grand from the Martha Holding Jennings Fund. With the Wild certification, the school received $500 from ODNR towards the trail project.

"We now have $1,500 that we can use for the trail. We have a 1,700 foot trail to the creek and we want to keep the spot natural," said Snouffer. "The trail is a wonderful resource for the school. It is a great way for teachers to take their classes on field trips without leaving the school grounds and serves as a good teaching tool. We are also receiving great community support."

A contest to create and design a kiosk for the trail was held at New Richmond High School. The winning design now stands at the entrance to the trail and explains the rules to follow while walking the trail, details about the trail and gives credits to the sponsors.

According to Snouffer, more work is being scheduled for the trail.

"Zack Dixon is in the process of planning his Eagle Scout project which will be to complete three boardwalks on the trail," said Snouffer. "This summer we will complete a walk-through butterfly garden by the kiosk. Two Girl Scout troops have pledged to work on the trail building around the kisosk, creating a bird blind and installing bird houses and nesting boxes."

The site is designed to be maintenance free, requiring yearly routine maintenance such as brush and overhead tree removal. Yearly trail clean-up campaigns will be scheduled utilizing community volunteer groups. The site is expected to be incorporated into teacher lesson plans whenever possible in the areas of math, language arts, art, music and physical education.

Kathy Garza-Behr, wildlife communications specialist for ONDR, made the presentation at the school and was excited about the possibilities that exist with the newest site.

"In the future, this trail could be used by the community," said Garza-Behr. "New Richmond Elementary is very fortunate to have this much land to devote to the project, but we have many schools participating which have no green space on their grounds. An inner-city school in Columbus created a green space in their parking lot. They had soil brought in, planted bushes and flowers and now have a butterfly garden. All schools could benefit from this program regardless of how much or how little green space they have access to."

The program operates on the premise that every school, no matter where or how large already has features that could contribute to environmental educational programs. This type of program often includes curriculum enhancements such as project Wild activities.

"Wild school site projects can and should represent opportunities for students to make real world connections," said Garza-Behr. "The site needs to be student centered and student driven. If the student community doesn't buy it, it just won't work."

The ODNR Division of Wildlife provides workshops for teachers, on-site consultations, grants and resource materials to help school site planners select and create Wild School Site projects and activities.

For more information about Project Wild, contact the Division of Wildlife at 1-800-wildlife or (614) 265-6316.
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