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Alabama Wildlife Federation awards outdoor classroom grant to James Clemens

Alabama Wildlife Federation presented a grant for an outdoor classroom to James Clemens High School. Principal Dr. Brian Clayton, at left, accepted the grant, along with teachers Brittany Bankston, Patricia Williams and retired Sgt. Maj. Samuel McCray. April Waltz, at right, is the federation's outdoor classroom coordinator. (CONTRIBUTED)
Alabama Wildlife Federation presented a grant for an outdoor classroom to James Clemens High School. Principal Dr. Brian Clayton, at left, accepted the grant, along with teachers Brittany Bankston, Patricia Williams and retired Sgt. Maj. Samuel McCray. April Waltz, at right, is the federation’s outdoor classroom coordinator. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – James Clemens High School has received a grant for an outdoor classroom from the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

James Clemens will use the $940 grant to help with developing outdoor learning stations for hands-on activities for students. The school will enhance a campus area with native plants to provide a habitat for local backyard wildlife.

The federation presented the grant to Patricia Williams, James Clemens biology teacher and outdoor classroom coordinator.

“For Phase I development, we envision transforming our natural habitat area into a resourceful outdoor classroom, where excitement and student engagement intersects with science, mathematics, reading and the arts in a living laboratory,” Williams said. “Year One will include a butterfly garden, raised garden beds, birdhouse stations and a bog.”

When James Clemens opened in 2012, a walking trail was established. Teachers and students will replace some non-native, invasive plants there with native species that produce nectar to attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Songbirds can eat from other native plants and bushes.

Workers will convert an existing retention pond into a small, artificial bog as an example wetland for students to study.

Teachers will present units for studying insects’ life cycles and habitats, calculating the bog’s soil pH and exploring ways that bogs decrease soil erosion. Students will observe, draw and classify wildlife found in and around the habitat and use that data to calculate species diversity, Williams said.

In addition, students can track bird and butterfly migration. Signage will inform students about plants, their affect on the ecosystem and the habitat these species provide for local wildlife.

The Alabama Outdoor Classroom program involves a partnership with Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The federation’s program offers competitive grants open to any school with grades K-12 enrolled in the Alabama Outdoor Classroom program. More than 300 Alabama schools have received funds to develop and use outdoor classroom sites.

For more information, visit alabamawildlife.org/classrooms.

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