If you're looking for a way to help contribute to work being done by scientists, then YardMap may be the thing for you. Created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, YardMap is a free, interactive, citizen science mapping project about habitat creation and low-impact land use. With this resource, you can learn more about the birds in your backyard, help gather important information, and explore your own backyard.
In order to use this resource, you need to sign up and create an account. Once in the resource, you can map your yard by using Google maps and several tools provided by the site. To map your yard, the first step is to locate your property with the map, and then use the "tool shed" to draw the perimeter line. There is a map view and a satellite view. Then you can draw the different "habitat" areas on your property. The house and other buildings are human habitats. Some of the other habitats you can add include lawn, forest, edibles, non woody plants, pavement, water, wetlands, and shrubbery. If none of those categories fits, there's "other."
In addition to mapping, you can:
- Explore—your local resources, take action for changes in your community, and find out how to use YardMap for your own yard.
- Learn—how habitat is defined and about the different types of habitat.
- Community—provides a place where you can interact with other YardMap users and share ideas.
You can use YardMap to not only help you and your students plan a school garden, but also connect your students to a larger citizen science project that provides data to scientists at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology about birds, backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. Creating a school garden is one way to get students to think about conservation issues in their own neighborhood and how they could be addressed.
YardMap also is a good tool to get students thinking about all the design issues involved in agriculture—from how the types of crops that can grow in an area depend on the climate and soil to how modern technology has increased the efficiency of agriculture. If possible, you can take your students out on the school grounds to take exploratory walks around the school during which they can note what's on the school property. Back inside, they can use what they learned to map their school and share the information with others involved in the YardMap project. Students can continue to use YardMap during the year as they work in the school garden and note any changes.
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