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How rich in biodiversity is our BSS campus?

How rich in biodiversity is our BSS campus?


This year, Mrs. Saunders' 5th grade students, at Brandywine Springs School, explored their "place" and beyond - through the lens of ecosystems.

It all began in the playground of our school... where the students stopped to observe their surrounding natural environment. All that they could see, hear, smell, and touch amazed them. So many things that normally go unnoticed!


The big question was -

How do we know if it is healthy and balanced? What are the signs?


We know how we feel when we feel healthy and nourished... but what about all the nature (plants and animals) in our playground environment?

Schoolyard Biodiversity Project

The goal of our Schoolyard Biodiversity Project is to observe and collect data regarding the elements of the environment that are present that will support a healthy level of biodiversity for the plants and animals in the ecosystem. 


From our findings and data, we will be able to consider enhancements and/or adjustments that should increase the schoolyard biodiversity, which in turn will create a healthier environment.


To begin, we collaborated up with Ms. Marioni's Kindergarten class along with Mr. Pragoff and Ms. Sheila, both environmental educators from the Delaware Nature Society's, Ashland Nature Center.


Mrs. Saunders' 5th grade class and Ms. Marioni's Kindergarten class split into two groups; one group went out to the outdoor classroom in the inner courtyard, and the other group went out to the playground.



Playground Group Meets in the Lobby

First, together with Mr. Pragoff, we began in the lobby to talk about the scope and goals of our research project. 


Then, with our clipboards in hand, we headed outdoors... to observe and collect data of the playgrounds' biodiversity and habitat features.


Playground Data Collection

Mr. Pragoff asked us to consider the four necessary elements of a balanced, healthy habitat: 

  • Is there a source of water?
  • Is shelter available?
  • Is there a good food supply?
  • Are there places to raise young?

We were amazed at how these questions made us look really closely at the environment that we play in every day.


Soon, we found that to the questions, there was more than one answer. Hmm... There were a lot to consider... more than we had imagined!


Inner Courtyard


Meanwhile, half of Ms. Marioni's Kindergarten students and half of Ms. Saunders' 5th grade students went into the inner courtyard at BSS to observe and document the elements of biodiversity: available water, shelter, place to raise young, and food.




Playground Reflection in the Lobby

After many observations and data collecting, we returned inside to discuss our findings. The students had a lot to share and contribute! They were very thoughtful in their comments and connections.    



Returning to Ms. Marioni's Classroom

Returning to Ms. Marioni's classroom, both groups were able to share their observations and findings. It was amazing to see how 50 kids were so involved and concerned about the plants and animals in their environment!

5th Grade Reflection and Discussion

After our big discussion, Mrs. Saunders' class returned to the classroom to review, discuss, and debate the meaning of the gathered data. Mr. Pragoff helped us to come to a consensus when we had differing points of view.



Biodiversity Data Collected by BSS Students

This data chart shows the scores the BSS campus received for each of the categories required for a healthy habitat.


Students researched these areas of need and arrived at the following conclusions:



Schoolyard Data tells the Story

  1. There is a sufficient food supply.  


3 points for each food source observed:


Food Total = 21 points    

Percentage of Available Points 100%  


Food Total = 21 points

Percentage of Available Points 100%

Recommendation: Continue to plant or install/provide additional natural resources, such as:









Bird Feeder

Squirrel Feeder

Hummingbird Feeder

Butterfly Feeder

Holly plant

Native Delaware Plants



  1. Water availability in the courtyard and playground


Water is vital for all living things.


3 points for each water source observed:


Water Total = 3 points  

Percentage of Available Points 17%   


Water Total = 6 points

Percentage of Available Points 33%

This is a picture of the solar fountain in our Inner courtyard at Brandywine Springs School.


Recommendations: additional solar fountains, solar monitoring camera, solar-powered weather station.

  1. Places to Raise Young

Raise young.jpg

2 points for each place/location observed:




Location Total = 9 points  

Percentage of Available Points 60%   


Location Total = 7 points

Percentage of Available Points 47%

Recommendations: See Shelter (next section below)

  1. There is a need for increased shelter. 

2nd gr 2.png

2 points for each shelter source observed:



Shelter Total = 2 points    

Percentage of Available Points 10%  


Shelter Total = 4 points

Percentage of Available Points 19%



These are some natural resources of shelter for many animals. We could use additional natural resources, such as:

  • Rotted logs
  • Sticks
  • Leaves
  • Brush piles
  • Bushes
  • Rocks

We could bring these items in from our own backyards!


Bottom Line

We all agreed that the data revealed that our schoolyard is in most need of more shelter, along with places for animals to raise their young, and consistent, dependable sources of water.


Jacob was one-step ahead of all of us! He had already made a birdhouse with his father to show us how it and we can be part of the solution!


Awesome! Now we are all excited to make it become a reality! We can really make a difference here at Brandywine Springs School!

BSS Student do their research...

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To further understand the scope of the significance of biodiversity, we read and discussed the articles that Mr. Pragoff, from Delaware Nature Society, Ashland Nature Center, shared with us.


We had not realized that biodiversity and healthy habitats concerned so many people! 

The articles ranged from

Individual landowners,

- to local community nature centers, such as Delaware Nature Center,

- to the State and Governor's Counsel & Taskforce level, and

- beyond to global advocacy groups!


Wow! There sure is a lot going on - far beyond Brandywine Springs!


Here is a list of the sources that we read during our investigation:


Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control: Wildlife Species Conservation& Research Program


Delaware Native Species Commission


Delaware Nature Society


Delaware Native Plant Society: resources (links) page


Delaware Center for Horticulture Livable Ecosystems:


National Wildlife Federation


Wildlife Conservation:


Cornell Lab of Ornithology Conservation


Delaware Schoolyard Biodiversity Project


During our research, we learned a new term, extirpated, which means that an animal species no longer lives in an area because there is a lack of either food, water, shelter, or a place to raise their young. 


Research and studies have shown that many native Delawarean birds and other species are extirpated! They have gone somewhere else to meet their living needs.


Since we know how important all the animals are in the food chain, we understand that this is a very big problem for us and our environment here in Delaware. The solution to this problem will require help from every citizen!




Did you know?

On Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 in the Senate Hearing Room, Legislative Hall, there was a Statewide Ecological Extinction Task Force meeting. Senator Hansen, Chair, presented an overview of the Senate Concurrent Resolution 20, which stemmed from the presentation by UD Professor Doug Tallamy. She said she was alarmed by the percentage that local species have decreased.


The overview included data such as:


  • 40%of all native plant species are threatened or have already left the State
  • 41% of our bird species that depend on forest cover are rare or absent
  • 50%reduction in population size of many of our bird species over 50 years
  • 78%loss of our freshwater mussel species
  • 34% loss of dragonfly species
  • 31% loss of our reptile and amphibian species
  • 20%loss of our fish species


This information was researched and can be found in Professor Tallamy's book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.




So where does this research bring us?

What can we do as students? … We can start right here at BSS!


Since our data shows that  we need more shelter for the wildlife in the schoolyard, that's where we can start!


Why? ….because we know that...

  • Animals will havea place to live. 
  • Animals will havea place to hide.
  • They need to have a place that will preventthem from being extirpated (driven from their original habitat in Delaware.)
  • Each organism has a role andis dependent on the rest of the food chain and food web.
  • properly functioning ecosystem has many organisms that make it successful and thrive.


By improving the environment, providing additional shelter and water, we are supporting wildlife to survive!

It is Time to Take Action!

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  1. Birdhouses- shelter for mice in the winter, and a place to raise young for the birds in the spring.


  1. Logs- great nutrients for insect, offers a place for other animals to hide.

logs shelter.jpg


  1. Shrubs- offer food, shelter, and additional places for animal to raise their young.


Delaware shrub.jpg



This is an easy, win-win solution!

  1. We take a part in helping to sustain the biodiversity of our playground! 


Cost: None!

The grant from Delaware Nature Center will cover the cost of 6 birdhouses, plus - we have two bluebird houses from last year's PTO grant that need to be installed.!


Just teamwork to build the birdhouse, installation, and bring in some old logs!


….. AND more!


  1. We can be the first public school in Northern Delaware to network with other schools across the state!


Look at these other students. It looks so easy and fun to make birdhouses! We can do this too!

- No cost! Just time, good old stewardship, and TEAMWORK!









Let us get started! :)


 Red Clay Watershed

Brandywine Springs School is located in the Red Clay Creek Water shed. Many creeks and streams run through our area.




Making Bird Nesting Boxes


Wow! We had such a fantastic day making the bird nesting boxes! Mr. Pragoff cut out and pre-drilled the wood for us, and then he taught us how to screw in all of the pre-numbered pieces.  


We worked with Ms. Marioni's Kindergarteners, and we all felt so proud after the job was done!


We installed seven birdhouse!

First, the bluebird box behind the trailers where the bluebirds can fly in from across the field. 

Second, by the library, a quiet place for a wren.

Third, in the inner courtyard - perhaps a chickadee will be happy there.

Finally, along the tree line of the park, there will be plenty of food and shelter over there!  


We also made some bird feeders with stale bread, Crisco, and birdseed! So much fun!  


A Great Horned Owl came and visited the school yesterday! 

It created quite a still with the other birds! Too bad the nests are too small for that big ol' owl! :)


The birds are here :)

We went out to see if the birds had settled into the nesting boxes. They flew away as we neared the boxes, but we could see the evidence of a nest activity from the bottom of the nesting box. We could also hear their warning calls as we circled their new place of residence.  


The kindergarten class told us they saw bluebirds flying into one nesting box, and an English sparrow flying into the other, while they played in the playground adjacent to the nesting boxes.

In addition, a wren are nesting in the inner courtyard, and chickadees are nesting in the birdhouse by the entry door of the school! 


We are so thrilled to see all of this nature around us!

Click her to see the beginnings of our bird collection photos.


Exciting Events that have followed...

The 5th grade students participated in a session about the migrating Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs. They made posters to advocate for them. The focus was to educate the public to be careful of the migrating Red Knots and their need to eat and refuel, as well as to request that if they see a horseshoe crab upside down to please "flip-it" gently. 

Their posters were judged and many were included in the display and the DE Museum of Natural History.  

Arbor Day 2019


Mrs. Saunders' class also participated in the Arbor Day, "Trees are Terrific" lessons, activities, and poster contest. Soooo exciting!


Jayden Fuller, our classmate won the 5th grade competition for New Castle County! We are so proud of him!


As a reward to our school, BSS will be granted an Amelanchier, as known as a June-berry tree, to plant in our schoolyard. We are now in the process of arranging the place and time for the official tree planting.


   Jayden Trees are Terrific