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


Behind the scenes of any successful school wildlife habitat project one can usually find a group of determined educators, parents, volunteers, community organizations and local businesses working together to coordinate efforts. The coordination of external support from parents, volunteers and others is no small task. However, it is a critical component for any habitat project that will be sustained over time. Promoting your program to others is a key step in building a network of external support.

Establishing and nurturing community partnerships like any major project or task can be broken down into small and simple steps. It is not necessary to bite off the whole thing at once. Like the development of the habitat site itself - think big and start small.

Begin your project with a few key and dedicated partners to form your habitat team. The habitat team is the working committee that acts as the driving force behind the development and continuity of the project. The habitat team for a school just getting started should include at least one 4-H Wildlife Steward and at least one teacher, a principal or school staff member. To complete your team, an additional parent, an OSU Extension Master Gardener, or a community educator can be recruited to serve on the team.

It is important to publicize your program early in the process and publicize it often. Though a school wildlife habitat project is an ongoing project, it is important to celebrate the successes along the way and keep everyone informed. Publicizing your program serves several purposes:

box Other parents, teachers, community members or organizations can be recruited to help with the project when they are informed of what you are trying to accomplish and understand the vision of the program
box Promoting the program to others also provides an avenue for celebrating your successes. Teachers, students, volunteers, and community partners who are working on the program are recognized. Recognizing the efforts of individuals is one method of nurturing your relationships with others and building excitement for the program.
box Potential donors and community supporters emerge when they learn about a community project, such as a wildlife habitat on school grounds. Donors and community supporters want to support projects they know are making a difference in the community.

Your habitat team should include in their overall plan, a plan for promoting the program to others. Again, think big and start small. Establish your long range goals for promoting your program to others then break it down into small manageable steps. In your first year you may one to accomplish one or two simple promotional tasks and then the following year either enhance or build on what you started or add a new promotional effort to your plans. Remember, you don't have to accomplish everything the first year. Decide together as a habitat team what can be reasonably accomplished the first year and then set some concrete and measurable goals.

Here are a few ideas other 4-H Wildlife Stewards have used to successfully promote their program.

box Start a 4-H Wildlife Stewards School Newsletter.

A 4-H Wildlife Stewards newsletter does not have to be lengthy. One page will suffice. In your introductory newsletter you can let teachers and parents know what the project is about, where your site is located, how they can get involved and who to contact. Subsequent newsletters might include project updates, work parties scheduled, new resources secured and resources still needed. Some 4-H Wildlife Stewards even included a short survey for the teachers to complete. The survey asks questions such as:

  • What curriculum subjects are you working on this year?
  • How can the 4-H Wildlife Habitat Project support what you are teaching in the classroom?
  • What resources do you still need?
  • Would you like to serve on the Habitat Team?
box Establish a 4-H Wildlife Stewards Habitat Project column in your current school newsletter:

If your school or parent and teacher association already has their own newsletter, ask if you can submit a regular column in this newsletter. Introduce the Habitat Team and what your goals and vision for the wildlife habitat project are and how others can get involved.
box Create and distribute a flyer to all the parents in the school to announce your program and invite everyone to an informational meeting to learn more about the project.

The OSU Extension 4-H staff is available to make a presentation to your teachers and/or parents to explain the 4-H Wildlife Stewards Program. A 4-H Wildlife Stewards eleven-minute video is also available for check out. This video gives an overview of the 4-H Wildlife Stewards Program. Be sure to have sign up sheets for parents and community members with specific volunteer roles identified of where you need help. Provide a tour of the habitat site and help parents, teachers and community members understand the vision of your project and how they can help.

Ask to be allowed to give a short presentation at the next Parent and Teacher Association meeting or faculty meeting:

Provide your audience with information on your project, your goals and vision for the project and again emphasize how they can get involved and support the project. The clearer you are in communicating specific assistance you need, the greater the chance you will have to recruit others to support the project. Don't forget to invite the OSU Extension 4-H staff to help present the program if you need assistance. Or come to the 4-H Extension office to pick up brochures, videos, display boards, and other promotional materials.


Create a school 4-H Wildlife Stewards school website or a 4-H Wildlife Stewards Habitat Project link on your current school website:

The Internet is a very good tool for keeping everyone informed about the project, the accomplishments and what resources are still needed. Whether you create your own 4-H Wildlife Stewards website or create a link in your current school website, be sure you let students, teachers, parents and community members know where to go on the internet to get updated information on your project.


Create and establish a permanent 4-H Wildlife Stewards bulletin board in the school:

Check with your school principal to see if you can establish a bulletin board in the school that is designated for 4-H Wildlife Stewards Habitat Project Information. Select a site that is preferably in a location that parents and other visitors will pass by when they visit the school. An 8X10 4-H Wildlife Stewards placard is available to each school to post in their school. These placards are especially good for school bulletin boards. Some items to include on your bulletin board are:

  • Site map
  • 4-H Wildlife Stewards Member School placard
  • Photos of your site before, during and after
  • Names of the Habitat Team
  • Upcoming Events or work parties
  • Resources still needed
  • Samples of students' journal entries, drawings or other work.
  • Who to contact for more information

Make sure the key titles or headings on your bulletin board are readable from a distance. Use large size font in your titles.


Send press releases out to your local media to announce special events or report significant successes:

The local media is always looking for good stories happening in the community. A school wildlife habitat project where kids, teachers, parents and community members are working together to create, use and sustain wildlife habitat on school grounds is not only an interesting story to report but it makes a visually powerful story as well. Find the names of the local media reporters in your community and give them a call or e-mail them to tell them about your project and what you would like to share with the community. Perhaps you are looking for more community members to get involved in your project. Or perhaps you want to recognize students, teachers, volunteers and community members for the hard work they are doing. Sometimes it is good public relations to let the community know what you are doing and get their support in ensuring that your project is maintained. Lots of watchful eyes on your project during non-school hours also helps reduce potential vandalism.


Organize and host a Kick-Off Ceremony, a Ground Breaking Ceremony, an End of the Year Celebration, or some other kind of special event.

Events such as these are excellent for letting others in the community know all about your project. Some of the people you might want to invite to an event like this include:

  • School staff
  • Parents
  • Surrounding neighbors
  • Local media
  • School board members
  • Donors
  • Partners
  • Elected officials

As much as possible let the students plan and organize these events. Students can help make and distribute invitations, greet visitors when they arrive, provide testimonials, provide tours of the site, and/or serve refreshments. This is an ideal time to thank the supporters of your project and let the community know how they can get involved in the project. Be sure to have sign-in sheets and information on what resources or help you still need.

Know your audience. Will your audience be adults with small children? If children are invited to the event, be sure to provide some activities for the children. Also, plan for your event to last no more than 2-3 hours.


Place signage in your Habitat Site:

A sign for those who visit the habitat site is important because it lets the public know that this site is a wildlife habitat project created by students, teachers and community members.


Most important - Maintain Your Garden:

A garden that is not maintained and becomes an eyesore to the school community and community at large can undo lots of hard work that was put in by many people. Be sure you have a plan for keeping the wildlife habitat maintained.

Remember, a promotional program for your project is like any other large task. Break it down into small and manageable steps. The important thing is not how large your promotional efforts are. It is more important to publicize early and publicize often. The success of your project will be largely determined by the external support you will be able to generate within the school and within the community. Building that external support network will depend on your ability to promote your program to others.


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.