Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Since my last post about the 'competition', I've spent a lot of my spare time reaching out, in every direction, for help, assistance and suggestions. I called and emailed many politicians, educators, environmentalists, birders and local businesses. In short, I contacted just about everyone I could think of who might share an interest in restoring the environment and the "School Yard Species Competition."

Thus far, here are a few of the respones that I have received:
From the Mayor of the City of Annapolis:

Actually I have a plan for school yard habitat restoration. It was to begin when our Eco-park at Back Creek was complete. (Check the City's white paper at Annapolis.gov )

However, I like your proposal, and think we could start on this before Back Creek is completed in the Spring.


Ellen Moyer
From the Anne Arundel County Executive:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue with me. I have asked my assistant Mr. Bob Leib to review this and report back to me. Please call on me anytime I can be helpful to you.

County Executive
From Audubon:

Thanks for writing. I like your thinking here. In fact, I've had something stuck in my craw (is that the expression?) for a while, somewhat similar, that would engage students in a competion.

First let me say that I was at a Richard Louv event the other night and it only fueled my desire to get kids outside and into nature more. Louv made the point a few times that parents should not rely on schools to do it...and he's right; schools, right or wrong (mostly wrong) are so focused on reading, writing, computer skills, and here in Pennsylvania...the dreaded "state tests" that there is no longer time for nature. Kids "might" get a field trip once a year, but beyond that, very little EE in schools. So, from Louv's standpoint, it's up to parents to get out with their kids. But the broader picture for me is to change the perception of school boards and re-establish the importance of the understanding of the natural world. (which reminds me of something Audubon Arkanas is working on...I'll forward it to you.)

Now, the competition...though I haven't fully read through all your stuff here, it's congruent with what I had in mind. That is, use the existing (and relatively new) citizen science program, The Great Backyard Bird Count, to have schools compete for having the most species diversity on campus. Obviously, urban schools are going to be at a disadvantage, but perhaps you put schools in catergories (urban, suburban, exurban, xx acres, etc) and they compete against "like" schools. The problem with the GBBC is that of course, it's a winter count and once a year. I think the competition would be better if it took place in seasons where you could actually count insects (and plants) as you've suggested.

We're working on a propety recognition program here and I'm in communication with Britt Slattery who is my counterpart at Audubon DC/MD. This recognition program is not only suitable for schools, but can be duplicated (once the internet part is up) in any state. Might work nicely with the competition.

Let's talk more,
Steven Saffier
Audubon At Home Coordinator
Audubon Pennsylvania
From Annapolis' Wild Bird Center:

You know that we are already involved at West Annapolis ES and stand ready to do more.

Wild Bird Center
West Annapolis, MD
From Sean Pelan, a Science Teacher at Matapeake ES on Kent Island:

Hey, was reading your ideas about establishing bird habitats and creating opportunities for science lessons and I'm interested. I teach 2nd grade at Matapeake Elementary on the island. It's 3 years old and was designed very environmentally friendly. A new middle school campus just opened on the same grounds so it's a heck of a campus. Lots of ponds and environmental touches. Google Map it and see. You've been birding at Terrapin Park so you know the potential. Nature abounds. Great blue herons greet us in the pond every morning, and ducks and geese love us. At school our kids find praying mantises, frogs and toads, and watch as ducks are raised in our courtyard each spring. The last four just left this week it seems. Our science curriculum in 2nd grade is in transition this year, so the time is right to get creative and take advantage of the environment outside our doors. As a teacher and fellow musician, consider me openminded to your ideas and one you might want to collaborate with as far as getting them off the ground. We don't have money, but we have a great PTA, a willing staff, inquisitive kids and the freedom to step out of the box and get our hands dirty which is rare these days, yet essential if you're to see these things come to fruition. The next turn on Rt. 8 after us is a nursery, too.

Take it easy and keep the strings tuned...
I am delighted to have heard these responses. What's more, it's thrilling to know that people and organizations are hard at work on their own initiatives for habitat improvement.

Perhaps I should host an evening summit in order to present this project in greater detail? A discussion could take place as to how to best build this competition, make the rules, implement it, as well as how we might solicit participation from outside interests (local business, DNR, FWS, Audubon, Parents, Teachers, Other Experts).

Once everyone has had an opportunity to express their concerns, ask questions and offer suggestions, this competition could be well on it's way to becoming reality.

So, who is interested?

All the best,


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