When David Weinreb asked his sixth graders to sing one last time before the end of the school day, the class groaned. But Weinreb insisted, and begrudgingly, a few students stood up from their seats as the intro to “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz played on the room’s speakers.“Listen to the music of the wind, and the birdies sing. We’re just one big family, and all of nature deserves to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved,” the students sang. By the second verse, every student was dancing on their feet. Though tired from a full day of school, the classroom was soon filled with smiles and energy. …

A teacher reads aloud in one of the outdoor learning spaces.

Excitement was in the air at Fair Haven School Friday —  as were butterflies and bees. The occasion: a bilingual unveiling ceremony for a new schoolyard habitat.

Over the past year, the school community, along with the help of Audubon Connecticut, Common Ground High School, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, turned barren land near the playground into a dynamic learning space. With outdoor classrooms and indigenous wildlife, the space is fit for observation, year-long research projects, reading, writing, and unstructured play. With birdfeeders and filtered rainwater, the habitat will serve as a safe space for pollinators and other animals to collect food and water.

Fair Haven joined eight other schools in New Haven with schoolyard habitats as well as 11 others in the state of Connecticut (Read about other schoolyard habitats in New Haven here, here, and here).

Teachers can attend a development workshop to learn how to lead classes outdoors with Audubon Connecticut, and Common Ground will offer field trips for students.

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