Citizen Science in a Backyard Wetland Environment

Supporting their Quaker missions of community and environmental stewardship, Sidwell Friends Middle School supplement their environmental science curricula (bioblitz, bee studies, toxicology, energy/sustainability) with observation, tracking and recording of seasonal bird activity on their 15-acre campus. After renovating and obtaining LEED Platinum Certification for their Sidwell Friends School Middle School building in 2007, the school community continues to pursue the school’s mission of community and environmental stewardship. The area is now a National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat.

There are wetlands on campus which support indigenous plants, lily pads, and fish. Since 2009, students have been recording wildlife sightings which have included hawks and owls. One of the bioblitz activities involved the seventh-grade Nationalience students identifying all the animals and plants they could. For insects, a live sample of each species is put in a jar with a mesh lid, recorded, observed, and released. Current wetland plantings include those which attract bee and butterfly populations. Eighth graders conduct an annual survey of pollinators on campus. They are working closely with the U.S. Geological Survey, which helps them design their research and identifies their bees. So far, they are up to 68 species of bees on campus, including 12 species never before recorded in the city!

In the future, the school hopes to build birdhouses and nut feeders to support a more diverse group of birds. Specifically, they want to provide suet and nut logs for woodpeckers, niger and thistle for finches, hummingbird feeders, and white millet for mourning doves and white-throated sparrows, and more.