Students planting the HabitatMadeira Beach Fundamental K-8 School is the winner of Florida Wildlife Federations 5th Annual Kids' Habitat Contest. The contest was open to all backyard and schoolyard habitats in Florida established and tended by children 12 and under.
The Madeira Beach School Wildlife Habitat is planted using only native materials. Planting and maintenance are done by students, under the leadership of Nina Nicholson, Media Specialist for the school, and Bill Droke, 5th Grade teacher. Students have workdays to eradicate weeds and trim plants. Higher grades host lower grade classes on forays into the gardens to teach the younger students about native plants and their care. The school is located on a lagoon of Boca Ciega Bay, and uses raised wooden walkways over shallow waters to teach lessons in preservation of aquatic plants such as mangroves, and about fish and marine mammals.
The school included an award presentation ceremony during its Earth Day celebrations, to mark winning the contest. During the celebrations, a framed award certificate was presented to Nina Nicholson, along with Bill Droke, and 5th grade students by Florida Wildlife Federation's Youth Conservation Director, Brianna Jones. Miss Jones also brought the students a Horned Owl puppet and several nature books for the school library as mementos of the day.
Mr. Droke's students led Ms. Jones on an extensive tour of their habitat gardens and of the areas on the waterfront used for marine studies. Students also showed her a PowerPoint presentation they had made, detailing the native plants in the gardens, with information about which native animals utilize which plants for food, (leaves, nectar, fruits) and shelter, (bird nests, butterfly host plants, etc.). Not only do student's activities gain them new information about environmentally beneficial plantings, they are practicing writing and computer skills.
FWF promotes and supports the National Wildlife Federation's Habitat certifications program, but It is not necessary for habitats to be certified by National Wildlife Federation's certification program to enter or win the Kids' Habitat Contest. It is only necessary to provide the four items needed for a successful habitat; food for wildlife, water, cover to allow escape from predators, and a place for wildlife to raise their young. Of the 4,925 National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitats in the country, 418 are in Florida. Florida Wildlife Federation believes that education of Florida's youth in ways to preserve our state's flora and fauna is of prime importance, as Florida's young people will be Florida's environmentalists in the future.