Where Do I Start?
There are two components to incorporating habitat restoration projects in a school setting.
A. CONTEXT: Students need to understand what healthy native habitat means, what types of habitat existed in their area prior to Euro-American settlement, how the landscape has changed, and what is being done to protect and restore native habitat.
B. MANAGEMENT: If students are to actually plan, plant, and care for native habitat, they need a deeper understanding of what is required for successful habitat restoration. It must be a long-term project, and it can be complex. Yet students can learn much about ecosystems at the same time that they make a difference for their community and the planet.
With the arrival of Euro-American culture in the 1800s, most of Minnesota’s forests, prairies, and wetlands changed forever. Based on surveyor’s notes from the Public Land Survey, 1847—1907, in 1930 Francis J. Marschner compiled a detailed map of Minnesota showing the native habitat across the state. Click on the thumbnail map to download a pdf map (4.5 megabytes) based on Marschner’s map from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Background Fact Sheets for Students
Action: Why Does Native Habitat Matter?
For Teachers: Planting Project Related Curricula
related to habitat restoration and erosion prevention plantings.
To learn about Minnesota’s
ecology, explore the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Minnesota
Ecological Classification System. For each of twenty-two subsections, the site
describes: landform, bedrock geology, soils, climate, hydrology, presettlement
vegetation, today’s land use, natural disturbances, and conservation
For technical details including plant
lists, obtain the Field
Guide to the Native Plant Communities of Minnesota
for your “province” of the state.
Order from www.dnr.state.mn.us. (Search for Field Guide.)
What kind of project you will do?
Where you will you place it?
How big will your site be?
Wildlife Federation, Schoolyard Habitats – Supports school nature areas with plans, curriculum, and
links. Purchase the excellent
Schoolyard Habitats® Starter Kit, the Schoolyard Habitats® How-To
Guide for K-12 School Communities, an orientation video, and other
Ones Manual 4th Edition includes the latest wisdom
on planning native landscaping.
Choose a project.
Then access these resources to plan and organize it.
While it is important to attempt to restore the original native habitat of an area, bear in mind that on a small scale (such as an urban school lot) what is most important is to ensure the survival of your planting. Soils, drainage, shade, invasive plants, human uses, and other factors will impact the strategy for success on any given site. Start small and build on success.
One practical approach is to start with a model plan with plant lists. Then get advice about how to adapt such a plan for your site.
The Minnesota DNR offers complete model plans for Landscaping with Native Plants for five different types of gardens.
The Minnesota DNR offers a free download: Going Native: A Prairie Restoration Handbook for Minnesota Landowners.
Buy the Minnesota DNR’s Restore
Your Shore instructional CD ROM.
Native plants are growing in popularity as a landscape alternative and a means to slow and filter runoff. Some cities offer incentives for property owners to install rainwater gardens and other best management practices.
See the Wet Meadow model plan on the Minnesota DNR’s Landscaping with Native Plants site.
The Rice Creek Watershed District created a guide and network of local suppliers through One-Stop Shopping to Restore Your Yard and Shore. The site includes free downloads of a How-To Raingarden Manual and a Planning Packet.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers a free download of Plants for Stormwater Design: Species Selection for the Upper Midwest. These documents include guidance for choosing the best plants for your site.
of Wisconsin Extension offers a free guide to rainwater gardens.
One way to ensure success is to keep your project simple. Small plots of native flowers attract insects and birds for students to study and enjoy.
The Minnesota DNR offers free downloads
for butterfly gardens.
Trees cool neighborhoods, block winds, and provide key habitat. Trees also live for decades. So if you are going to plant a tree, do it well.
Twin Cities Tree Trust offers instructions and many links to additional resources. Apply for training and technical assistance.
The Minnesota DNR describes native tree species. (The DNR also publishes the Trees of Minnesota in booklet form.)
Shade Tree Association offers useful guidelines for choosing
the right tree for your site. NOTE: Many trees listed on this site are not
native to Minnesota. If you
aim to restore habitat, choose only natives.
Erosion Prevention Projects
The Pollution Prevention Project Guide has a three-page “to-do” list with details under each of the nine planning steps above. Download detailed “Habitat Restoration & Erosion Prevention” instructions.
Note: This section of the PPPGuide offers an overview only. You can then access the many other resources on this page as well to help you plan your project.
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