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Sat, March 23

Outdoor science project takes shape at Granville Elementary

Volunteer Sean Kauffman, left, and grades 5/6 science teacher Melinda Fulfer ready the ground for a drip irrigation system in Granville’s new Schoolyard Habitat during a May 11 planting party.<br>
Trib Photo/Sue Tone

Volunteer Sean Kauffman, left, and grades 5/6 science teacher Melinda Fulfer ready the ground for a drip irrigation system in Granville’s new Schoolyard Habitat during a May 11 planting party.<br> Trib Photo/Sue Tone

The Highland Center for Natural History has partnered with its newest school, Granville Elementary, to create a Schoolyard Habitat at the front of the campus.

Volunteers at a recent work "party" took advantage of warmer spring weather to dig, plant and sculpt the landscape to make room for irrigation hoses, paths, and terraces for an amphitheater.

"We will add benches in the amphitheater area, and parents will build a small bridge," said Robin Berardi, GES computer lab aide and volunteer.

Later, a longer bridge will cross the entire habitat running north and south, and students will be able to observe the habitation from above, especially when water is present, Berardi added.

So far, volunteers have planted about $2,000 worth in plants, thanks to "very generous" pricing from Prescott Valley Growers and the Highland Center's plant sale. Students' families have also donated labor and plants. Plaques will stand next to the plant with the Latin name, common name, and donator's name.

Berardi said Arizona Public Service donated the mulch chippings, and Wilby's donated fertilizer.

Lesley Alward, Master Gardener and landscape contractor, designed the plan for the Habitat, setting up zones similar to what is found in nature. She also volunteers her labor and teaching skills. She is connected with the Highland Center "through my interest in plants," and helped out with Miller Valley Elementary School's Habitat in Prescott.

At the May 11 planting party, Alward drew out where the drip system channels run, and several teachers used muscles and pickaxes to dig through the 4-inch layer of clay. In a couple of years, once the plants are well established, the volunteers will remove about two-thirds of the irrigation.

"The emitters will put out about 1-3 gallons per hour to get everything established. Regular and deep irrigation means deep roots, and that creates a more drought-tolerant plant," Alward said.

The Schoolyard Habitat program is a hands-on, outdoor science program based on Arizona curriculum standards. Coyote Springs Elementary School put in the first Habitat during the 2006-2008 school years, followed by Territorial in Chino Valley (2007-2009), and Miller Valley (2008-2011) and Washington Traditional (2009-2011) in Prescott. The Highlands Center staff work with each school for two years. 

This summer, volunteers will keep an eye on the watering system and plant health, and also build an arched entrance from the parking lot sidewalk into the Habitat.

Those wanting to be involved with the project at Granville, may contact the school at 759-4800.

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