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4H Wildlife Stewards
Bringing Science and Nature Together...one school at a time.



This is a good time to assess how your summer maintenance plan went. Was the work shared so it was not a burden to one individual or family? If this was your first year, how are your plants doing? How many have not survived your summer break? Fall is a good time for planting, so talk to your students about how their habitat looks and if there is a need to replace or move plants that have not faired well. Do you have summer blooming annuals or perennials? Periodic dead heading throughout the summer will ensure continued blooming ,sometimes until frost. Once herbaceous (soft stemmed) plants have stopped growing or become dormant they can be pruned back to ground level. They will grow back from the roots next year. All habitats will benefit from a fall clean-up followed by the application of 4-6 inches of mulch. This will help prevent compaction from rainfall and will make the soil easier to work in the spring.

Fall is a good time to test your soil. Kits are available from the Extension office for limited testing but if you want a whole class to be able to test, you should buy a kit for your school from a garden center. Lime and organic fertilizer can be applied this fall.

Pruning of trees is best done in February but you can do some corrective and clean-up pruning now on both trees and shrubs. If your habitat is established it may begin to need perennials divided or plants moved or removed. The extra plant material can be given away or if there is a good quantity; a plant sale may be in order.


Winter can be a quiet time for student work on the habitat. However, it can also be a time for students to assess the appearance as well as the function of the habitat site. Colorful bark, and varied textures, add interest to the winter landscape, and trees and shrubs with fruits and berries add interest as well as food for wildlife.

If you are planning for a spring planting this is a great time to work with your students to inventory your site, measure and map the area and begin researching native plants as well as other plants that have wildlife value. Seed catalogs, nursery supply catalogs and garden publications are great resources to share with your students. Visit a local nursery, botanical garden, or park and take note of the winter landscape and what may be blooming this time of year. Some plants can be started from seed to be put out in the spring. Also, some plants can be propagated this time of year.

The landscape should be checked by students for storm damage, limbs down, broken branches. Prune damaged woody plants. February is also a good time to prune deciduous summer blooming shrubs and trees as well as ornamental vines. Winter/early spring is a good time for tree planting, either bare root or balled and burlapped.

Check water structures and clean out debris. Keep bird feeders stocked and if you have not installed feeders you may want to look into having students construct some simple feeders. It is not too early to build nesting boxes for spring. We have plans for different styles of "bird furniture" depending on what species you would like to invite to your habitat.


Springtime is a time for many groups to take advantage of the nice weather and getting kids out on field trips and hikes to explore the outdoors. Safety is the most important concern of teachers and of Wildlife Stewards. As a leader, teachers and Wildlife Stewards are responsible for the safety of their group.


  • Your students, their physical capabilities, judgment, and ability to cooperate
  • How to administer first aid
  • The area you are hiking
  • The hiking distance and how long it will take
  • What to do in an emergency
  • What outdoor clothing to use in various weather conditions
  • How to recognize and voice or safely negotiate physical and climatic hazards
  • How to control and pace a group while hiking
  • How to read a map and use a compass
  • What to do if a person or the group gets lost


  • Play games that involve teamwork, cooperation and building self-esteem
  • Take a first aid class
  • Prehike the area
  • Start with short hikes, until you know the group better
  • Discuss an emergency plan with the group. Test them by role-playing an accident
  • Visit an outdoor equipment store with the group
  • Check out local weather and snow conditions prior to outings. Have a plan for lightening storms
  • Place the slowest person right behind the front leader
  • Practice map reading and set up a compass course at your school
  • Pretend a hiker has been lost and role-play what to do


Summer is quick approaching and now is the time to set up your summer maintenance plan if you have not done so already. Establishing and implementing a summer maintenance plan is especially critical this summer for schools who have planted new plants this Spring and will need careful watering. Oregon is also facing drought conditions this summer, which will provide stress to our school gardens.

It is best if the wildlife habitat is maintained by students, families, and community members in partnership with 4-H Wildlife Stewards. A shared effort will ensure ownership and longevity of the program.

Assign Families to One Week to Maintain the Habitat Site: Several schools have implemented successful summer maintenance schedules by assigning families and students to take one week during the summer to maintain the habitat. Phone calls, letters home to parents asking for their support, and sign-up at your next PTO or PSO meeting are good ways to let families know how they can help.

Arrange to Get the Water Key for Outside Hose Bibs: Remember, access the to building will be limited during the summer months. Arrange with your school principal and custodian to get keys for turning on the water. Most principals and custodians are usually on-site through mid to late July.

Set Up a Locked Storage Area or Tool Box with a Combination Lock: Also, it's a good idea to have a locked storage area, a shed or a box with a combination lock. Tools, hoses, and the water key can be stored in this area. A log sheet can be developed for families to record when they watered and weeded so the next family will know what happened in the previous week. It is also helpful to have emergency contacts such as a key volunteer, a 4-H Wildlife Steward or an OSU Extension Master Gardener who can be contacted if there is a problem with the plants, safety issues, equipment break down, vandalism, etc.

Provide a Reference Notebook of Plants and Weeds in the Garden: Pictures, sketches, and/or descriptions of the plants which have been planted and their requirements for water, sun, and soil can also be collected and put in a notebook as a reference for the families who are maintaining the garden in the summer. Be sure to include pictures and sketches of weeds as well. This will help ensure that families will know which plants should be pulled.

Maintain a Journal or Notebook in the Main Office for Keep Grounds Staff Appraised of Your Project: In order for grounds keepers to be aware of our 4-H Wildlife Habitat projects, it is a good idea to keep a notebook in the school office. Grounds keepers are not responsible for maintaining our wildlife habitats, but should be aware of how the habitat is maintained, who maintains the habitat, and when the habitat is maintained. The notebook should include: map of the site, information on plants, a watering scheduled that is followed, spray and pesticide restraints, list of key volunteers, and an "ongoing" journal of your work and scheduled work. This is an excellent project for a team of students in your school to set up and maintain this notebook.

Keep the Neighbors Informed: Don't forget to keep your neighbors informed of your habitat project. They can help keep a watchful on your wildlife garden during those summer days when there are few people around. A letter or flyer from your students describing their project and how the neighbors can help is a great way to get the neighbors on board.

Above all remember, this is not a project of a 4-H Wildlife Steward or a single teacher. This is a school project. Get others involved in the project. The pay offs in the end will help both you (you don't have to do this alone) and the entire school community by ensuring a project that can be sustained over the years to come.


4-H Wildlife Stewards, Sunnyside Environmental School, 3421 SE Salmon 1209,
Portland, OR 97214 - 503-916-6074, e-mail: wildifestewards@oregonstate.edu
Copyright 2002-2009. All Rights Reserved.