The Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a partner of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and one of the main catalysts of lynx re-introduction in Colorado, is presenting an opportunity for Summit County schools through its Schoolyard Habitat program.
The program distributes grants to public and private schools throughout Colorado to develop science curriculums and offer hands-on experience for students. Part of the program funds an on-site garden that will help educate students on the ecology of soil.
"This program gives students the opportunity to learn first-hand about wildlife and ecosystem interactions as they go through the process of planning and creating their Schoolyard Habitat project," said Hank Luria, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
The Colorado Schoolyard Habitat program was established by CPW in 1989 and has awarded nearly $150,000 to 250 schools across the state.
"Each year, students are excited to go outside, get their hands in the dirt, and see the impact their work has on wildlife and their school," said Kelly Diehl, project coordinator for CWHF.
Interested schools must apply through the CWHF website by Feb. 1 with a project proposal. All public and private schools in Colorado are eligible to apply for the Schoolyard Habitat program.
Financial awards are distributed to schools by March 1. Grant recipients must submit project report forms to CWHF by Dec. 31 of the grant year.
Grants range from $250 to $1,000 and are awarded by a committee consisting of members from CWHF and CPW. The committee's decision to award grants is based on the scientific and educational merit of the project, as well as the project's fulfillment of criteria detailed in the application.
Through the curriculum and garden projects, students work as a team, apply critical thinking skills and incorporate math and science knowledge.
"This is a multifaceted program that school faculty gets involved with the kids, parents and wildlife officials," Luria said. "The community involvement has been immense throughout the state. It's really a win-win situation for everyone."
The program helps teachers fulfill academic standards while providing a hands-on learning opportunity for students.
"Getting students involved in this type of work develops a life-long environmentalist," Luria said. "They get to create something and pass on a legacy of positive change in the process."
This year, CWHF committed to expanding the program, which will include a more involved follow-up process. In addition to requiring report forms at the end of the grant cycle, CWHF will collect images and updates from teachers throughout the year.
"At the end of each grant cycle, we'll compile a report to share and celebrate the work of each grantee," Diehl said.