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Welcome Wildlife


Learn about the plants and animals of the Barnegat Bay watershed, what they need to survive, and how you can attract and support wildlife in your Jersey-Friendly schoolyard.

Why It’s Important

To thrive, wildlife needs natural spaces with access to food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Development changes the landscape, resulting in a loss of the habitat that local wildlife needs for survival. You can make a difference by restoring some of that lost habitat in your schoolyard.

Learning Actions

3A: Learn about the many benefits of “going native” in your schoolyard.

Provide a lesson to your students about the benefits of native plants and their key role in a healthy environment. A great resource to use is the NPSNJ Native Plant School Guide.

Plants that are native to our watershed have evolved over thousands of years to be well-adapted to our local soil and climate conditions and to the other plants and animals around them. In addition to providing essential habitat for wildlife, native plants conserve water, protect soil resources, and reduce the costs and environmental impacts associated with fertilizers and pesticides. Visit the Jersey-Friendly Yards Native Plants page to learn more.

Do you have a stream in your schoolyard? Streams are full of life! Protect wildlife and water quality by leaving the riparian vegetation to naturally grow along and near the banks of your stream.

The lack of diverse habitat in traditional turf grass lawns makes them “ecological deserts” for wildlife, and the fertilizers and pesticides commonly used on lawns are sources of pollution harmful to wildlife. Replacing some lawn with native plants is one of the best ways to support wildlife and keep our water and soil clean and healthy! Visit the Jersey-Friendly Yards Step 6: Reduce Lawn Size page for more information about the advantages of replacing lawn with native vegetation.

3B: Explore the diverse habitats and wildlife of the Barnegat Bay watershed.

From pine barrens and oak forests to salt marshes and barrier island dunes, the habitats of the Barnegat Bay watershed provide local wildlife with all their basic needs – food to eat, water to drink, shelter and protection from weather and predators, and places to raise their families. Through lessons and activities, explore some of the different habitats of the watershed and the diversity of wildlife inhabiting them.

Many of Ocean County’s schools are located in some of the most unique natural areas in the country. Through the Ocean County Parks and Recreation’s “Borrow a Naturalist” program, Chris Claus (cclaus@co.ocean.nj.us) can lead a nature walk at your school, answer questions, and provide lesson and activity ideas. Perfect for all grade levels. 

Using the student observations and schoolyard map from Know Before You Grow, discuss the kinds of habitats that already exist on your school grounds. Then have your students brainstorm ideas for what to include in your garden project that will welcome wildlife and support their basic needs. Refer to the Jersey-Friendly Yards Step 7: Create Wildlife Habitat page and use the following list of ideas to get started:

  • Appropriate food sources such as fruit and seed-bearing plants, shrubs and trees,
  • Native plants that provide nectar or pollen to pollinators,
  • Native plants that host beneficial insects, such as milkweed for Monarch caterpillars,
  • Places for wildlife to raise a family and materials to build a nest (this may include a variety of plant types, such as grasses, ferns, vines, perennials, shrubs and trees),
  • Feeders for hummingbirds and/or for seed-eating birds,
  • Places for birds and wildlife to shelter from the weather or predators (this may include trees and shrubs or brush piles).

Have your students use the Going Native: A Guide to Landscaping with Native Plants in the Barnegat Bay Watershed brochure to research wildlife-friendly NJ native plants for their schoolyard project. Selecting a variety of native plants that bloom and fruit at different times will provide year-round sources of nectar, seeds, and fruits and diverse types of cover for wildlife.

Why It’s Important

Insects play a key role in sustaining plant life – they are the basis of all ecological food chains. Landscaping for pollinators has many benefits. Your Jersey-Friendly schoolyard can provide valuable habitat for declining pollinator populations. Pollinator gardens also offer opportunities for observation and scientific research, and lend themselves to important biology and ecology lessons. 

Provide a lesson to your students about the important role of pollinators and other insects in sustaining life on earth. Discuss the needs of pollinators and how to provide healthy habitat for them in your schoolyard garden.

Designate your garden project site as a Pesticide-Free Zone. Learn about the connections between pesticide use and pollinator decline. Visit Step 5: Minimize Risks When Managing Pests on the Jersey-Friendly Yards website for more tips, tools and resources.

Ready to Submit?  

Upload the Required Documentation to Your Custom Link.

Use the custom link you received after enrolling to upload your documentation.

What to submit for the actions in Welcome Wildlife:

  • A short write-up of the activities conducted by you or the guest speakers about the many benefits of native plants. (3A)
  • A short write-up about the lessons and activities completed on watershed habitats and wildlife. (3B)
  • Student ideas for enhancing wildlife habitat in the schoolyard. List of potential native plants for the schoolyard project as researched by the students. (3C)
  • A short write-up of the activities conducted by you or the guest speakers about pollinators and the impacts of pesticide use. Written confirmation from the school administrator that the project site has been designated as a Pesticide-Free Zone. (3D)
  • Photos of your students engaged in lessons/activities.

Components of the School Certification Program