Each year since 2005, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, in partnership with the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), has awarded conservation grants to local teachers for science projects related to studying the environment.
For the 2021-22 school year, the Environmental Education Grant program has created “Pocket Refuges” at eight Lee County district schools to teach students about the importance of pollinators and the habitat that sustains them. Working with district Environmental Education Resource Susan Hassett, DDWS has distributed a total of $12,000 ($1,500 to each of the schools) to buy supplies from a menu of native plants, bird houses, trail cameras, solar-powered fountains, and other enhancements to create native pollinator gardens. Schools submitted proposals for building their gardens, which must be completed by May 2022, and maintaining them for two years.
“Besides teaching kids the importance of pollinators, the ‘Pocket Refuges’ are being used as mini field trips outside the classroom, where teachers can address different class subjects in an experiential way,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who helped coordinate the project.
Schools participating in this year’s Pocket Refuge programs include Fort Myers schools Colonial Elementary, Edison Park Creative and Express Arts School, Lee Adolescent Mothers Program, South Fort Myers High, and Tice Elementary; Hancock Creek Elementary in North Fort Myers; East Lee County High in Lehigh Acres; and Trafalgar Middle in Cape Coral.
If you have questions, please direct them to DDWS Education Chair Wendy Kindig.