AISD’s Wildlife Habitat Demonstration Garden Approaches One Year Anniversary
This coming May, ESC will mark the 1st anniversary of completion on a key project in the local wildlife habitat restoration movement.
On May 16, 2013 AISD’s Wildlife Habitat Demonstration Garden officially opened to a well attended crowd of volunteers, sponsors, workers, teachers, parents and children. The garden was a project of the National Wildlife Federation and AISD, with generous support from tireless volunteers and enthusiastic financial backers. ESC designed the garden, with preliminary input from landscape architecture students at Texas A&M University. We managed the project “on the ground” and were responsible for technical aspects of the installation.
In the past year the garden has drawn considerable attention and usage, especially by students and teachers campus-wide. Similar projects have already been planned or broken ground.
A case study will be presented by ESC at the 2014 CEER conference (Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration) in New Orleans this July.
The garden serves as a district-wide living laboratory and outdoor learning center for students and teachers. Landscaped strictly with native plants chosen for their wildlife and ecological benefit, the garden helps connect children, many with limited experience in nature, with the plant and animal world in a profound and participatory way. Studies have shown when students learn in an interactive, natural environment, math and science performance increases.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, children released small fish, butterflies, and lady bugs into various plant and aquatic communities. The impact of the garden on learning was immediately apparent to those in attendance.
ESC’s approach to the design was to help create a series of wildlife habitat beds that resembled natural plant communities in Central Texas, from xeric western character to riparian and eastern ecotypes. An ephemeral stream and a small pond were also incorporated. Emphasis was on attracting native and migratory fauna, including butterflies, other native insects, hummingbirds, as well as other native and migratory birds.
Hardscape elements — terraces, fencing, trails, benches, and kiosks — were locally sourced from materials native to central Texas, including eastern red and mountain cedar, limestone, and granite. Hardscape features were designed to be attractively simple, maximizing the ability for other AISD campuses, which are often reliant on volunteers and donated materials, to create habitat gardens of their own based on this model.
A solar shelter classroom area was already present on-site, affording an opportunity to leverage an existing outdoor learning facility into a broader concept. The solar shelter was augmented with a rainwater harvesting system.
As school districts become strained financially, while continuing to be responsible for helping shape tomorrow’s leaders and innovators, projects like this become increasingly important and rewarding to all involved. ESC is honored to have had the opportunity to help shape this effort.
AISD Science and Health Resource Center
(Adjacent to Pleasant Hill Elementary School)
305 North Bluff Drive, Austin, TX. 78745