The Long Island Sound Study, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Connecticut partner on implementing the national USFWS Schoolyard Habitat Program in the state of Connecticut. The mission of the program is to get students across the country outside to experience nature. The Schoolyard Habitat program in Connecticut is unique because it targets urban areas and builds on the USFWS Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. The first year of program funding was made possible through the Long Island Sound Study Futures Fund. Long Island Sound Study involvement with the program began in 2012 when four schoolyard habitats were created in Stamford. Since then, seven more schoolyard habitats have been added and are located in Stamford and New Haven. Through the concept of Restore*Connect*Explore, the Schoolyard Habitat Program helps to restore habitat and riparian buffers, improve water quality and connect urban students to their local, natural environment. The program fosters a sense of exploration and curiosity in students, encouraging them to unplug and connect with the natural world. It aspires to engender a lasting environmental ethic for the Long Island Sound Area.
Restore Schoolyard habitat projects increase habitat quality and connectivity in the Long Island Sound Study Area. Projects target paved or underutilized space on school grounds close to the Long Island Sound and restore these areas to rich, native habitat. These habitat patches provide critical resources for wildlife, increase habitat connectivity and help improve water quality by filtering pollution before it reaches the Sound. Several of the Schoolyard habitat restoration projects are located between and around Long Island Sound Study Stewardship Sites. These projects help increase connectivity between Stewardship Sites and other larger tracks of protected land in the Long Island Sound Study Area.
Schoolyard habitats inspire a sense of stewardship by connecting youth in urban communities to their local, natural environment. This understanding of and connection to their local natural environment engenders a sense of stewardship and is essential for the future protection and health of the Long Island Sound Study Area.
Schoolyard Habitat projects provide urban youth and teachers with outdoor classrooms and curriculum support so that they can explore the natural world in a hands on way. Through this exploration students learn about connections between the healthy habitats on their school grounds, neighborhood, watershed and the Sound.