You are now
a certified 4-H Wildlife Steward. Congratulations!! You’ve completed
your training. You are excited, inspired and ready to take action. You
learned lots of new ideas that you want to incorporate into your Habitat
Education Site. You have stacks of new curriculum and resources to share
with the school teachers and staff. It’s time to jump right in!!
WAIT!!! Do you have your Habitat Team in place? Establishing a Habitat
Team is one of the most important first steps for any 4-H Wildlife Steward
to take if they want to ensure a successful project. No volunteer, teacher,
or staff member should try and undertake this project alone. It takes
a team to bring a vision alive.
What is a
Habitat Team? A Habitat Team is a core group of 4-6 people who will
help guide the project and help to ensure that the project moves forward.
They are the dreamers, the planners and the ones who help ensure ideas
get turned to action. While students, school staff, community partners,
and parents may all help to create and carry out the dream and vision
for the Habitat Education Project, it is the Habitat Team that provides
overall guidance to the project and lays the groundwork of how the project
will be created, used and sustained.
size for the Habitat Team is 4-6 members. Teams that are too large sometimes
have a difficult time coming to consensus and too much time may be spent
on processing the ideas. However, you need enough people to bring a
diversity of ideas to the table.
Some of the
people you may want to include on your Habitat Team are:
- 4-H Wildlife
- 4-H Wildlife
Stewards Member School teacher or staff
- the school
- the school
- a representative
of the Parent Teacher Organization
- an active
community agency partner
- a representative
from the local neighborhood association
- an older
It is critical
that the 4-H Wildlife Steward and at least one 4-H Wildlife Stewards
Member School staff be represented on the committee. The composition
of the other committee members will depend on the school project. Each
project and each school community is different so each Habitat Team
will be different.
Team is recruited and organized and now it is time to get down to work.
Where do you begin? What should be done first? What is the role of each
person? These are common questions that many Habitat Teams will ask
themselves as they begin to get organized. These are very important
questions. The extent to which the Habitat Team is willing to work through
these questions will have a great impact in determining the success
of the Habitat Education Site. At the very least, it will have an impact
on the potential of the project. In a worse case scenario, the momentum
of the project’s progress will come to a complete halt if issues
with the Habitat Team are not resolved.
from the National School Volunteer Program Inc., has identified several
keys ingredients for creating a successful school team. The following
is not meant to be a cut-and-dried rulebook of team policy. Rather,
it is a springboard from which the team can come up with their own set
of norms and guidelines to fit their needs.
of Successful Teams
teams have a common, unifying purpose. Participants
must mutually agree upon the purpose. Is the reason your team is developing
a Habitat Education Project to improve student science scores? Or
is it to provide a project that the whole school community (parents,
teachers, students, community members) can get involved in and work
- Good teams actively involve their members in establishing goals, objectives,
and activities. A team that does not involve all members
in setting goals and objectives will not have everyone totally committed
to the plans. That can be a barrier to the team’s success. Remember
that people support projects that they helped to create. One of the
first tasks the Habitat Team should undertake is to set up a meeting
time to agree upon the purpose of the project and the goals, objectives
and activities of the project.
teams have clearly defined operating procedures and clear
definitions of the roles members are suppose to play. All
members need to have a clear understanding of the team’s ground
rules, what is expected of them, as team members, what they can expect
from the team, and who will chair the meetings. What is the role of
the students in your Habitat Team? Do they have assigned duties that
will ensure their input into the project? Is there a regular meeting
time of the Habitat Team. At the very least Habitat Teams should meet
3-4 times a year.
- Effective teams have the support and influence of key actors in the
school community. These are individuals whose energies and
network of contacts provide the linkages behind a variety of community
projects. This might be the PTA president, the principal, or an influential
parent. The team needs to identify any key individuals in the school
community whose influence and linkages will be an asset to the project.
- Successful teams have a common vocabulary and an effective means of communication.
If the various team members interested in a common objective do not
have a common vocabulary, they may use different words to describe
the same phenomena. This can lead to misunderstanding, and people
may seem to disagree, when in fact the problem is semantic. Native
plants vs. non-native plants that will be used in a Habitat Education
Project can be a point of debate for some Habitat Teams. Be sure you
define what is a native plant.
needs to be an established method of keeping members of the team informed
of the activities of other members. Relevant information should flow
easily wherever it is needed. Information is a source of power. Team
members who have information and whether intentional or not, do not
share it, the team dynamics may be undermined.
teams have shared leadership. While a core group
of individuals may be responsible for organizing the team and nurturing
it through its formative stages, it is important that the team be
the responsibility of one or two individuals. To the extent that the
leadership can be shared, the team will be strengthened. Don’t
forget to allow student members to share the leadership. Perhaps a
student member can take leadership for taking meeting notes or providing
a student report each meeting.
- A team requires a commitment of time from all members. Time
is the most precious resource that busy people have, and while building
a team will require much time, the team should be careful not to spin
wheels, duplicate efforts, or otherwise waste the time of members.
Develop and post an agenda for each meeting to ensure the group stays
teams have procedures for measuring their progress and how
well they are meeting agreed-upon goals and objectives. In
other words, teams should plan from the beginning for ongoing evaluation,
which allows for mid-course corrections, if needed. It also gives
the school community evidence that the team is responsible and accountable.
teams must have staff. A paid staff member from the
school should be on the Habitat Team. This is especially true in the
developmental stages, when there are lots of decisions being made
that will directly impact the school.
Team Approach to Collaborative Project Planning
of collaborative planning must be incorporated at the inception of any
successful project. The purpose of the team approach in program development
is to involve key decision makers in the design of the plan. Early involvement
in planning avoids potential problems during implementation of the Habitat
Education Project. At the end of the planning session, there will be
a comprehensive plan that reflects the input of most of the key players
in the school community.
Keep in mind
that there is not one best model for program planning. Program planning
is a process. What process each team uses will vary from school to school.
have identified and recruited your team members, find a time, day, and
place that is convenient for everyone to meet. Your first meeting will
be an important one. This meeting will set the tone and direction of
all future meetings. Here is a sample agenda for a Habitat Team that
is meeting for the first time:
and Introductions (have each team member explain why they are interested
in serving as a team member and what skills, knowledge and/or experiences
they bring to the group)
one member to keep notes of the meeting
the project purpose
project goals and objectives
the Habitat Team Operating Procedures and team roles
is expected of each team member?
will chair the meetings?
often will the team meet?
and when will the team meet?
will members communicate with each other between meeting dates?
there other people who should be on the team?
- Set the
time, day and location for the next meeting date
tasks to team members as needed
If the school
principal is not on the Habitat Team, ensure that one team member is
responsible for keeping the principal informed of your progress and
be sure to share meeting notes with your principal. Also, don’t
forget to keep copies of your meeting notes in your 4-H Wildlife Stewards
Project notebook. Keeping good and accurate records of your project
will help maintain and sustain the project over time. New members will
join the team over time and your original team members will eventually
leave. Records of your Habitat Team meetings will help new members gain
an understanding of the history and progress of the project.
If you feel
a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of developing a Habitat Team for your
Habitat Education Project, rest assured: program planning works. Without
exception, Habitat Teams that have completed a program planning process
and created a plan for project implementation based on their existing
needs and available community resources have experienced success. The
planning process will serve you well as your team develops a plan.