The Bright School is surrounded by beautiful trees and plants with many kinds of birds and other animals making homes nearby. Now our campus is officially certified as a Schoolyard Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program. More than 5,000 schools nationwide have created these helpful habitats that provide natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. Our habitat also becomes part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators.

Lynn Shelton ’87, who was hired as the school’s eco-literacy specialist this fall, has worked with the early childhood teachers to enhance the school’s Enchanted Forest Early Childhood Playground area, gardens and learning areas. Last summer, she turned the flower beds outside the ECC classrooms into pollinator beds with native plants and flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinating creatures. She has been working in the gardens, teaching students about planting seeds and harvesting them. There is a compost area and many birdhouses and feeders around the gardens.

The school also has a pond and butterfly garden adjacent to the science classroom for grades 1-5 that is overseen by science teacher Melanie Nestler. Her students help tend to the plants and learn to make observations about the wildlife there. Mrs. Nestler leads the green team, which also works with a compost system that uses vegetable scraps from the dining hall. Mrs. Nestler is leading the school’s efforts to be certified through Green Spaces’ sustainability program for businesses.

Mrs. Shelton, a certified Master Gardener, has helped direct recent changes to the school grounds such as removing invasive species, allowing plants to go to seed instead of cutting them back in the off season, and encouraging ways the landscape can support local wildlife.

Before Christmas break, students decorated a tree with natural ornaments made of dried fruits and popcorn, and today JPK students harvested the radishes they seeded with Mrs. Shelton in October.

“I will continue to work toward creating a healthy habitat for wildlife, butterflies and native species which will benefit our local ecosystem and expand our opportunities for teaching the children about the wildlife and flora native to our area,” she said.

Bright’s eco-literacy initiative provides a way for teachers to integrate outdoor education into their daily curriculum. In addition to daily outdoor recess, grades JPK, PK and kindergarten have a day set aside to spend outside, rain or shine, enjoying the walking trail, learning about nature and observing wildlife.