The Start of an Urban Garden and a Lifetime of Citizen Science

Alaska Garden Grant Winner

The goal of these students from Yonkers, NY was simple: make something from nothing with the opportunity to build a garden and start off a variety of lessons for the students to learn about the natural world. This was accomplished with the Alaska Fertilizer and Cornell Lab of Ornithology BirdSleuth Garden Grant. Students and their teacher, Daniel Gallagher, worked with their neighbor Joan to build up her property that was a certified pollinator garden and animal habitat. Students grew saplings of mammoth moth in the class’s indoor grow tent and prepared the yard for planting.

The garden allows students to better absorb the NSTA-NGSS aligned standards found within the Habitat Connections, BirdSleuth, and other Citizen Science lessons and projects. It allowed students to participate in Project Feederwatch and it gives students an area to conduct BirdSleuth: Investigating Evidence experiments. Many of the students do not have backyards, so now they have an opportunity to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. With the addition of a better variety and cross-section of birds, Merlin and eBird will be more indispensable than ever. The grant gives many more students the ability to add to their life lists. They also have a newfound pride that their contributions to eBird will help scientists better understand our world. Last but certainly not least, HC lesson 7: Improve Your Bird Habitat will be able to be carried out for years and years to come as the goal is to expand the garden little by little each year!

There were also many other activities the students participated in throughout the school year that advance their education about the natural world. They include a trip to Greenburgh Nature Center to learn about birds of prey and dissect owl pellets, an Earth Day Neighborhood Clean-Up, a visit from nature photographer Tom Warren, and creating bird and nest sculptures to showcase their learning.