MIKE BRAUN Wild sites teach about environment

Most parents would be chagrined to learn that their children were going to a school labeled "wild."
However, for a handful for local schools, the designation is a mark of distinction.
In Ohio, Wild School Sites are so designated because they are educational properties where pupils, teachers and others in the school community can "learn about and benefit from wildlife and the environment," according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.
Part of the DOW's Project WILD program -- a supplemental environmental education curriculum for grades K-12 -- Wild School Sites also have the distinction of being able to offer an "integrated environmental education program" no matter how large or small the school is or, for that matter, where it is located.
What the program does
"A Wild School Site project allows teachers to take lesson plans outdoors, helping bring environmental education concepts to life in a real way for students," said Jen Dennison, wildlife education coordinator for the ODNR Division of Wildlife. "An added benefit is improvement of the schoolyard habitat for wildlife and people."
In the greater Youngstown area, schools designated as Wild School Sites include Lynn-Kirk Elementary in Austintown, Jackson-Milton Elementary in North Jackson, Ellsworth Elementary in Ellsworth and Westgate Elementary in East Liverpool.
These schools have specific areas at or near their schools where the Wild School Site programs are held.
The DOW also offers Wild School Site grants to help fund and supply "outdoor classrooms" with materials, equipment and activities.
Applications for these grants are currently being accepted by the state. Ten grants of $500 each will go to schools currently participating in Project WILD. Teachers can use the new grant money for materials, equipment and activities to develop "Wild School Sites" on their own campuses.
The grants are awarded on a competitive basis to applicants that best meet the Wild School Site criteria, including feasibility of the project, benefit to pupils in understanding the needs of wildlife in Ohio, and participation of pupils, teachers, staff and the community at large in the development and upkeep of the site.
Submit application
Local Project WILD educators interested should submit an application before May 31 to the ODNR Division of Wildlife, 2045 Morse Road, Bldg. G, Columbus, Ohio 43229-6693. Details of the program and an application can be found on the Division of Wildlife's Web page at ohiodnr.com.
To become Project WILD-certified, teachers and educators must attend a workshop to obtain the curriculum.
One such workshop is being held today at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm on state Route 46.
XInformation about other available workshops is available online or by calling Dennison at 1-800-WILDLIFE.

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