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Monday, December 30, 2019

Johnson Students Propose Wildlife Habitat for New School Building

Teacher Jillian Booth with Johnson fourth graders who propose a new wildlife habitat for their school. They got help from Highlands students including Edrin Ahlfeld, junior, and Alex LaCourt, freshman (back row)

By Robin Gee

A proposal to create a wildlife habitat around the new Johnson Elementary School building was the student showcase presentation for the Fort Thomas Independent School Board meeting in December.

Johnson teacher Jillian Booth shared background on the project. Students and their teachers began to notice that the wildlife habitat that surrounded the school was being destroyed even in the pre-construction period before the new school project began.

"Last year, the students persuaded the community to build backyard habitats to sustain the animals, and now they are planning what the new Johnson school habitat could look like," said Booth.

The students had enjoyed hikes and learning about nature as they explored the area behind the old school building and wondered if they could restore and rebuild a habitat on the grounds around the new school building.

"The driving question for our project, was how can we persuade our leaders at Johnson to create a visually appealing school habitat that capitalizes on native plants to encourage healthy wildlife?"

Now open. 2000 Memorial Parkway, Fort Thomas, 

Tapping into resources and making a plan

The students formed groups to research and plan their proposal. Taking advantage of the close proximity to the high school, the students also sought help from two of Ron Rosel’s classes to help plan out the design and build some of the items the students would need for their plan.

Students from the high school Engineering and Manufacturing class designed and built bee hotels to house carpenter bees, good pollinators for the area, while the school’s Architectural Design class developed the plan that would help the students’ vision come to life.

The Johnson students researched the needs of various wildlife that they’d seen in the area. They also researched native plants that could help sustain the animals and insects. Included in their detailed plan were costs for each item and some ideas about funding.

The students’ presentation at the board meeting outlined the reasons why they felt the project was so important. They pointed to benefits for the animals but also for the students’ own learning environment.

"The new habitat will help kids learn about pollination and animal adaptations," their presentation stated. "It would also mean Mr. Jeff [Searcy] and Mr. Paul [Prewitt] would not have to mow the lawn in that area," an added bonus for school staff.

The students spent more than a week researching each of the animals and shared their findings. They focused on creating a habitat that would attract and support owls, bats, butterflies, bees and birds. They then researched what native plants would be best and available, the costs involved and some funding avenues.

Details of the plan

A map detailing placement of plants, trees and features for the Johnson habitat project.

They shared the detailed plan by the high school class showing placement of the trees, flowers and bushes as well as features like walkways and seating areas.

Trees and plants on the students’ wish list included oak leaf hydrangea, spice bushes, various native milkweed plants, tulip poplars, black oak trees, green ash trees and other native species. The students plan for a pollination garden for the bees and butterflies.

A breakdown of the needs and costs for each species in their plan included:

  • Owl budget: $434.66 includes four nesting boxes, two green ash trees, three black cherry trees, three tulip poplars, three black oak trees, two dogwood trees, two black gum trees, two juneberry trees and stepping stones.
  • Butterfly budget: $247.95 includes 32 swamp milkweed plants, 32 common milkweeds, 32 butterfly milkweeds, three bags of six poke milkweeds.
  • Bat budget: $345 includes five bat houses, five penny royal, five paw paw trees.
  • Bee budget: 842.56 includes black-eyed susans, two goldenrod, seven butterfly bushes, two sunflowers, six oak leaf hydrangea, 15 coneflowers, three aronia bushes, 25 stepping stones and two carpenter bee hotels.
  • Bird budget: $3,369 includes 15 spice bushes, three tables, two benches, three pine trees and five bird houses.

The final cost would be around $5,300. Students suggested a paver sale to help with funding and explored applying for a Lion’s Club grant for $1,000 and a possible Campbell County Extension grant for about $2,000.

School Board Member Karen Allen suggested the students create a “wish list” similar to a guest registry that community members might be able to buy an item on their plan list.

Project demonstrates all aspects of Portrait of a Graduate

Booth noted that the students drew on all the qualities identified in the school district’s Portrait of a Graduate. "We took 15 separate presentations and turned them into one, which took collaboration and leadership. The students were global communicators for two presentations, one for a Mentor Day, where they bounced ideas off professionals, and of course, critical thinking and problem solving were woven throughout."

The board praised the students for their work and presented them with Fort Thomas schools t-shirts.

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