Located just outside of Pioneer Elementary School sits a little slice of serene paradise.
The quiet little pocket of wild foliage, rocks, critters and running streams, also known as the GISD Schoolyard Habitat, has grown in size and features since its creation in 2006.
Bricks bearing the names of past citizens line the winding dirt paths of the habitat. A pond was added by Johnny Appleseed Co. in 2007, and students and teachers have laid rocky paths made of crushed granite to help guide students to the pond from the school.
A Butterfly Garden was added, along with plants and a Hummingbird Garden. The plants attract butterflies, caterpillars and a variety of birds.
Kindergarten classes hatched butterfly larva and released the butterflies into the habitat as they studied their life cycles. Students also watched as monarchs laid eggs in the butterfly garden, and then observed them hatching.
It became a National Schoolyard Habitat in April 2007, and a dedication ceremony took place May 3, 2007.
School workers also built a labyrinth in which students planted greenery between the walking paths. In September 2007, GISD secured a grant from Lowe's and built a storage shed. Later, a new path to the labyrinth from the shed was added.
In 2008, bat houses were added to the habitat by Eagle Scout Matthew Renfro, and a new stream and garden were added, along with an entrance sign made of rock.
The habitat has also brought in many small wild animals, from foxes to rabbits.
Most recently, GISD Schoolyard Habitat director and retired teacher Judy Fields received a $34,000 grant from the Graham Community Foundation to add more.
“It's for educating the children (about) a habitat,” Fields said. “When putting in a habitat, you have to have food, water, a place for animals to hide and raise their young. We talked about what we wanted, what would have to be done and gave an estimate.”
They decided to use the grant to install whisper tubes, more paths and interactive learning boards for students.
Whisper tubes are PVC piping that teaches children about sound travel through PVC tubes. The tubes will be installed on either side and over the habitat's shed so children can hear each other but not see one another.
Depending on what area of the habitat the student is in, the solar-powered interactive learning boards allow children to learn about what they are seeing and hearing.
The Rockhill Group of Weatherford originally designed the interactive learning boards for the Botanical Gardens in Fort Worth. They installed the tubes, paths and interactive learning boards at the GISD habitat as well.
Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.