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18 Schools, Nonprofits Win Healthy Habitats Grants
AUSTIN — A total of $174,469 in Texas Healthy Habitats Grants has been awarded to 18 schools and non-profit youth organizations across the state, including ones near Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Bryan, Lubbock and other cities.
Each organization will receive up to $10,000 to support students doing service-learning projects to benefit wildlife and the environment.
The students will address priorities in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint to "keep common species common" and avoid more species from becoming threatened and endangered. Texas is believed to be the first state offering grants for student service projects to support a state wildlife action plan.
The grants are being administered by Service Learning Texas and are made possible through a donation from EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Scientists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department met with student-teacher teams last October in Austin, and TPWD experts will continue to guide grant projects as they unfold over the next year.
Students will research and define a local environmental issue, investigate public and organizational policies related to the issue, design and implement a service-learning project in collaboration with at least two community partners (including TPWD staff), evaluate and publicize the results to public officials and community members, and develop Web profiles for each project for inclusion on the TPWD and SLT Web sites. Students will likely do field work next spring.
In 2009, EnCana donated $486,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. The major portion of the donation helped initiate the Healthy Habitats program. In 2010, Encana donated an additional $200,000 to continue support of Healthy Habitats, based on successful grant project outcomes and positive comments from teachers and students.
Since 1991, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has been the official non-profit partner of TPWD. By bringing together companies, corporations, communities and individuals, the foundation has raised more than $60 million benefiting a wide variety of projects.
EnCana is one of North America’s largest independent natural gas producers and has a long history of supporting conservation and education causes. Encana’s commitment to high environmental, social and business standards has earned Encana international notice for five years running on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World), where they are listed as a global leader in sustainability.
Service Learning Texas is a statewide initiative of Region 14 Education Service Center and the Texas Education Agency that seeks to improve student achievement through service-learning, an integration of community service with academics. SLT assists students, teachers, administrators, and communities in Texas with training, technical assistance, and resources to develop and strengthen service-learning. It is supported by the Learn and Serve America program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Below are descriptions of grant recipients and their proposed projects. The recipients are listed by metropolitan area or region.
New Grant Recipients
Olson Elementary, Allen Independent School District —Teacher/Coordinator: Kirk Evans, (972) 562-1800, firstname.lastname@example.org—Students will build awareness in Allen ISD and the community of Allen on the importance of keeping waterways clean of trash and helping people understand the importance of aquatic plants and animals. They will continue cleaning the waterway and roadway in front of the school and will start conducting a biodiversity inventory on the school’s aquatic areas. They will plant native aquatic plants and prairie grasses in the aquatic areas around their school and Chandler Elementary and continue planting native prairie grasses in the Connemara Meadow Preserve.
Curtis Middle School, Allen Independent School District —Teacher/Coordinator: George Lee, (972) 727-0340, email@example.com—Students will start a club at their school to commit to ongoing environmental improvements and will improve the water quality and diversity of the ponds at Celebration Park. They will achieve these goals through the Curtis Environmental Club they are beginning this year. Students want everyone to have a part in the improvements and create an awareness in their school by getting students interested in being an active part in preserving and improving their environment.
Coppell High School, Coppell Independent School District— Teacher/Coordinator: Holly Anderson, (214-496-6279), firstname.lastname@example.org—Students at Coppell High School explored the biodiversity in the area and discovered that less than 1% of the original region is still intact. They decided a restoration plan was needed based on the shrinking land available for prairie success and the presence of invasive species. They will make a difference in their community by helping to restore the Blackland Prairie of Coppell Nature Park through independent research and collaboration with local partners. The students hope to learn more valuable information regarding the conservation of biodiversity and the skills necessary to conduct large-scale projects such as this one.
Garland Alternative Education Center, Garland ISD—Teacher/Coordinator: Ginger Davidson, (email@example.com) — Students at Garland Alternative Education Center will focus on the restoration of an undeveloped area of land near their school. Their plan is to plant trees in order to control water runoff and add native plants to promote a greater variety of butterflies and birds to the area. Students will plant drought tolerant trees in order to withstand long periods without rain. As a result of this experience, they hope to develop a clearer understanding of the impact of runoff water and how to restore an area.
Fort Worth Area
Glen Rose High School, Glen Rose Independent School District—Teacher Coordinator: Wendy Thompson, (254- 898-3828) firstname.lastname@example.org— After consulting with local experts, students developed a plan to make the habitat a better place for the Bobwhite Quail and the Eastern Blue Bird at the Squaw Creek Reservoir. They will restore up to 30 acres in the northern sector of the Squaw Creek Park by planting the native grasses and trees that will work for both of the birds. They will also educate the local community on the importance of riparian zones, habitat connectivity, wildlife corridors and other sensitive habitats.
Centerville Jr. – Sr. High School, Centerville Independent School District, 813 S. Commerce St., Centerville, TX 7583—Teacher/Coordinator: Lori Ward, 903-536-2625) email@example.com— Students will restore the lake habitat at Fort Boggy State Park. Students, teachers, faculty, and community members will have an opportunity to participate in restoring a dwindling fish habitat, thereby increasing favorable conditions for recreational fishing. Students will collect structures (i.e. Christmas trees) to be used as fish habitat, participate in building the actual habitat, and culminating activities that assess the success of the project and promote environmental awareness.
Martin Middle School, Corpus Christi Independent School District—Teacher Coordinator: Tony Bonilla, (361-878-4690) Tony.firstname.lastname@example.org— Students will raise a redfish in a classroom aquarium and release the redfish back into a bay once it is grown. They will research recreational fish population over the last 5- 10 years and learn about the successes of the TPWD saltwater management program. They plan to work closely with the Marine Development Center to experience fish conservation and restoration efforts. The goal will be to create a learning and service environment where students can experience the need for fish conservation, practice catch and release and educate the school, parents, and local community about fish kill, fish pressure, conservation, and catch/release practices. Students will create a dynamic educational presentation that will allow them to share their experiences.
Flour Bluff Intermediate School, Flour Bluff Independent School District—Teacher/Coordinator: Margaret Dukarm, (361-694-9440) email@example.com—Students will clear a half-mile trail that is five feet wide in an area that is overgrown with numerous invasive species that are choking out plants essential to the migration of birds. The remaining plants along the trail will then be identified and labeled so community members and other students will be able to identify more desirable plants. Students will establish a walking path and remove some invasive plant species. Additional plants will be planted to enhance the area and increase the desirability of migratory birds and butterflies.
Central Elementary, Central Independent School District, 8578 US Highway 69N, Pollok, TX 75969—Teacher/Coordinator: Susan Sanders sanderss@central isd.com— Ten Central Gifted and Talented Fifth grade students observed there was considerable destruction of habitat when the new elementary school was built this past year, due to dirt work and general overall construction. The students decided that the best plan of action was to research what habitat and wildlife was there previously and try to introduce native species plantings to bring back the wildlife. The students will restore lost habitat due to construction of a new school.
Grant Recipients Awarded for a Second Year
Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Dallas Independent School District —Teacher/Coordinator: Holly Gentry, (972) 502-7100, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students will do surveys to ask the community what they know about the Blackland Prairies, such as what trees, shrubs and plants are part of that ecoregion and why it is good to bring those back into the community. Students will then invite the community to the school to see their habitat and will explain the different plants and their benefits. Students will then follow up with another survey to assess the community’s knowledge about the Blackland Prairies after their lesson. They have also begun doing insect surveys that compare and contrast the insects in the Blackland Prairie Habitat versus the areas nearby with Bermuda Grasses. This will educate the community on how different species seek out the natural habitats.
Fort Worth Area
Aledo Middle School, Aledo Independent School District —Teacher/Coordinator: Terry Snow, (817) 441-5198, email@example.com — Students have two major goals — to create demonstration sites at school using native plants and to demonstrate water conservation ideas and the importance of native vegetation in water management for wildlife. Students will work with community partners (landscape architects and landscape companies) to create demonstration sites using native prairie vegetation and water conservation methods. The need to educate citizens will be met by students creating interpretative signage, public service announcements, website updates, and presentations.
Fort Worth Country Day School — Teacher/Coordinator: Perri Carr, (817) 239-3421, firstname.lastname@example.org— Students will continue their conservation of Texas prairie they began in 2009. Their goals for this grant are: to manage landscapes and watersheds holistically in cooperation with private landowners and the general public to foster biodiversity of plants and wildlife, to prevent species from becoming threatened or endangered, to control the spread of invasive species, and to educate citizens on the importance of wildlife corridors, especially in urban areas and prairies specifically and promote citizen participation in hands-on conservation. Their efforts so far have been effective in teaching other students about prairies and green roofs, so this year they hope to expand on their efforts outside of the school.
Camp Fire USA Balcones Council, Del Valle Middle School and Ojeda Middle School— Coordinator Contact: Lavert Rodgers, (361) 442-5291, email@example.com—The Teens in Action will address the priority of controlling the spread of invasive species and the priority of promoting citizen participation in hands-on conservation. The groups’ goals are to eradicate invasive species and replace them with native plants on a segment of their school property. The teens will measure their progress by documenting the removal of non-native plants through photos, video footage and diary entries. They will also document the planting of native plants that will replace the removed invasive ones and showcase their learning through classroom presentations.
Extraordinary Education Family Learning Center, Magnolia — Project Coordinator: Jackie Pace, 832-640-8141, Jackie@Ashley-Pace.com—The students will continue and expand the work that was begun with their Healthy Habitat grant in 2009-2010. Some of their objectives are: support wildlife, especially birds and pollinators, through providing food, water, and shelter within their Wildscape habitat, continue their long-term goal to eradicate invasive plants and increase the numbers and diversity of native plants on the property, cultivate a culture within their organization that values environmentally responsible living and practices and educate those who are connected with this project on the benefits of wildlife conservation.
Friona Independent School District, Parmer County — Teachers/Coordinators: Tonda Clark/Patsy Allen, (806) 265-5189, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com — The students’ goals are to educate and create awareness about Playa Lakes and their importance in their community as habitats, part of the water cycle, flood control, and the need for conservation. They will work to control the spread of invasive species, educate citizens on the importance of riparian zones, habitat connectivity, wildlife corridors and other sensitive habitats and promote citizen participation in hands-on conservation through field investigations, activities, presentations and reflections.
Shallowater Independent School District — Teacher/Coordinator: Cindy Couch, (806) 832-4535, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students will restore the playa lake, to educate the public about the importance playa lakes play in the ecosystem and to increase the number of species in the playa area by 40%. To do this, students will determine baselines by monitoring the habitat, design a plan to rehabilitate the playa, document the activities and conduct presentations to younger students. They will complete graphs, videos and scrapbooks and coordinate a Playa Festival for fifth graders.
Bryan/College Station Area
Hearne Junior High School — Teacher/Coordinator: Robert Wilson, (979) 279-2449, email@example.com — This project addresses three statewide conservation priorities: managing landscapes and watersheds holistically, in cooperation with private landowners and the general public, to foster biodiversity of plants, fish and wildlife; educating citizens on the importance of riparian zones, habitat connectivity, wildlife corridors and other sensitive habitats; promoting watershed and range management practices that improve ground and surface water quality and quantity. Students will collect data several times a month as they monitor Pin Oak Creek further upstream to several headwater locations.
Travis Middle School, Port Lavaca — Teacher/Coordinator: Sherrie Krause, (361) 552-3784, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students will continue to create and restore habitat for common as well as priority species. Since much of the physical construction is completed, this year the students want to spend more time collecting and comparing quantitative data. They will focus on measuring how the change in environment and habitat impacts the people who use this park. Different groups of students will specialize in specific jobs such as water quality, website construction, and multi-media presentations. They will educate the public on becoming more aware of wildlife conservation through presentations, social media sites, and a page in the yearbook.
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