Urban Forestry Grants up to $5,000 Available

Delaware’s urban forestry grant program has funded 588 projects for $1.86 million. 

Source: de.gov/treegrantdashboard

UCF Grants 2022


Contact: John Petersen, 302-233-8180 (cell) or john.petersen@delaware.gov 

DOVER, Del. (January 10, 2022) —  Delaware’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is now accepting applications for up to $5,000 in matching grants for tree planting and management projects on public land and community open space. Urban and community grants are open to all Delaware municipalities, homeowner associations, and certified nonprofits, including schools and churches. There are also grant opportunities specifically for areas within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. To find out if your property is eligible, click the “Find Your Watershed Address Tool” below. Complete guidelines on all grant programs are at de.gov/treegrants. The deadline is March 4, 2022 and all submissions must be via the online links.

“Trees have the power to transform communities. The grant program’s goal is to increase tree canopy throughout Delaware, along with the many benefits it provides. Funding for this year is very good and we hope to receive requests from interested municipalities, homeowner groups, and nonprofit organizations across the First State.” said Kesha Braunskill, Urban and Community Forestry Program Coordinator. “Quality projects that meet program guidelines have a good chance of getting approved in this grant cycle.”

The urban forestry grant program helps communities harness the numerous natural benefits of trees: cleaner air and water, energy savings, increased property values and civic pride, as well as reduced storm water runoff and flooding. Funding is provided by the U.S. Forest Service and state funds as well as partnerships with the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Nonpoint Source Program and the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy. This year, additional support is provided by DNREC and Governor Carney’s “Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative,” which aims to plant about one million trees over the next ten years to help address goals in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan

Photos at the Delaware Forest Service Flickr page: 2021 Urban and Community Grants

Videos of 2021 Tree Projects:

In 2021, the UCF program awarded $135,193 for 36 community tree projects.

Source: news.delaware.gov

Tree Grant Rehoboth


Urban and Community Grants

 Requests must be a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $5,000 in only one of two project categories: tree planting or tree management (i.e., professional tree inventory, hazardous tree removal, or pruning).  Grants require a 50-50 match in either cash (non-federal funds) or in-kind services, including volunteer or staff time, equipment rental, or supplies. 

Applications are judged by a committee of the Delaware Community Forestry Council. Eligible projects must be performed on public lands within the community. Priority will be given to first-time applicants, Tree City USA and Tree Friendly Communities, and projects with a focus on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Applicants are required to set up a site visit before submitting their application with the Urban and Community Forestry Program, who can review their project and answer any questions.
  • Site visits must be scheduled a minimum of a week in advance.
  • No site visits will be done after February 18, 2022.
  • Appointments will be made on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Final day to make an appointment will be February 11, 2022.
  • Deadline to submit application online is March 4, 2022 by 4:30 p.m.

Grants at a Glance

  • Matching grants range from $500 up to $5,000
  • Requires a 50-50 match in cash (non-federal funds) or in-kind services
  • One project in one category: tree planting or tree management (hazard removal, inventory, or pruning)
  • Project must be on public land or open space
  • EIN Number required – no payment to individuals
  • Site visit by urban forestry staff must take place before project submission
  • Site visits requested at least a week ahead by emailing the UCF Program
  • Deadline to apply via the online application form is March 4, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

Guidelines and Forms

Online UCF Application


Chesapeake Bay Tree Grants

Ches Bay Map The Delaware Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program also offers tree planting grants specifically to applicants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the nation’s largest estuary and a priority for conservation and restoration efforts. The Chesapeake Bay Basin in Delaware includes 15 sub-watersheds located along the western part of the state. You can find out if your property is located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by using the Find Your Watershed Address tool below and entering your address in the search box to the upper right. Click in the map area outside of the box and it will list the watershed and basin in which the the property is located. The orange and peach color indicates the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Requirements for Chesapeake Tree Grants

  • Must be a municipality or certified 501(c)(3) organization based in the State of Delaware. Common types include nonprofit religious, educational, charitable, scientific, or literary organizations.
  • Must own land located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with a parcel registered in your organization’s name that appears on your county’s tax parcel list (must provide parcel number).
  • Must provide a 50-50 cost-share match in either cash or in-kind services. Sufficient volunteer hours for planning, organizing, and carrying out the project can meet this requirement without a need for cash.
  • Be sure to check if your location is in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by using the “Find Your Watershed Address” tool.

    Find Your Watershed Address

Benefits of Chesapeake Planting Grants

  • Grants can be a no-cost or low-cost way to beautify and enhance your community or your organization’s campus and grounds
  • Tree planting projects can bring your community or organization together to benefit the environment

Technical Assistance

Delaware Forest Service staff can offer assistance at every stage of the tree-planting project:

  • Meet with applicants to discuss their project
  • Identify a suitable site for the tree planting
  • Select the best species for the particular location
  • Help calculate volunteer hours and services for match to reduce project costs
  • Schedule a planting day

How to Apply

If you think your town, church, or organization would benefit from a Chesapeake Bay Tree Planting Grant and you can meet the grant requirements for a 50-50 cost match (can be met by volunteer hours at no cost to your community or organization), then you are invited to contact the Delaware Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program. You can apply by clicking on the application link below:

Chesapeake Application

If you have questions, comments, or need further assistance, please contact the Urban and Community Program  Send E-mail.



Governor Carney Launches Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative (TEDI)

Public invited to enter trees they plant in new TEDI tracker

NEW CASTLE, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday launched a new program that aims to plant a tree for every Delawarean as part of the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This initiative was originally announced in Governor Carney’s 2020 State of the State Address and discussed in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan as a strategy to support local communities’ enhancement of urban greenspaces.

Click here for photos from the event.

“Last week, when I announced Delaware’s Climate Action Plan, I said that as the country’s lowest-lying state, climate change is a very real threat to Delaware’s future,” said Governor Carney. “Reducing emissions is essential to our efforts to deal with climate change, and the Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative – TEDI – helps us move forward on accomplishing one of the strategies outlined in the Climate Action Plan.”

“We all have a stake in improving our environmental health to ensure a stronger and healthier Delaware,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “By involving the community and encouraging Delawareans across the state to plant trees, we are taking steps to mitigate carbon emissions and their impact on our state, our children and future generations.”

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn M. Garvin and Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Secretary Michael T. Scuse joined Governor Carney, Lt. Governor Hall-Long, state and county officials, and stakeholders at a tree planting at Lieutenant Szczerba Memorial Park in New Castle to help launch the program. The two state agencies are partnering on the initiative.

DNREC and the Delaware Department of Agriculture partnered to develop a new website where residents can access information on selecting, planting, and caring for their trees. In addition, residents, non-profit organizations, and municipalities can visit de.gov/tedi to enter information and photos of their tree plantings to help count the trees planted throughout the state.

Healthy and resilient forests are a vital part of the efforts to combat the negative impacts of climate change. As part of a comprehensive approach in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan that includes energy efficiency, clean transportation and transitioning to clean energy sources. Planting and nurturing trees is a nature-based solution to reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“Along with our programs that help Delawareans reduce their energy use, TEDI provides an opportunity for everyone to contribute to our statewide effort to improve air and water quality, preserve soil, and support wildlife – all while reducing the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin.

Urban trees and forests help decrease energy use and emissions by providing shade, cooling temperatures and changing wind speeds. Studies have shown trees can reduce temperatures by 9 degrees and energy and heating costs by $7.8 billion a year in the United States.

Encompassing 1.25 million acres, Delaware has nearly 360,000 forested acres. With 78 percent of the state’s forests privately owned, the Delaware Forest Service provides technical assistance, funding and education to serve as a foundation for tree planting, conservation, reforestation, forest management and wildlife protection throughout Delaware.

“We are proud to have the Delaware Forest Service as part of the Department of Agriculture. With fewer than 25 staff, the Forest Service continually works with communities and private landowners all over Delaware to harness the power of trees to transform communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “The Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative is an important investment in our state’s forestland that will help improve our economy and public health. Every $1 million invested in tree planting and reforestation efforts creates 40 forest-related jobs. And from a health perspective, research has shown that trees absorb 17.4 million tons of air pollutants a year, helping to prevent 670,000 cases of asthma and other acute respiratory symptoms annually.”

DDA’s Urban and Community Forestry Program works to increase tree canopy in communities statewide. The Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program has provided more than $1.86 million in matching tree grants for more than 588 projects in the First State – with more than 16,000 trees planted. Municipalities, communities and organizations can assess their current level of tree cover as a starting point to explore opportunities to plant new trees using the Delaware Forest Service’s online tree canopy tool at de.gov/treecanopy


Urban Forestry Grants Revitalize Communities

PHOTO: The Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester Taryn Davidson and The Seasons Community Tree Project Manager, Joanie Zang. The community received a $4,486 grant.

Bowers Beach tree planting
PHOTO: Volunteers in Bowers Beach planted 23 trees in a park thanks to a $3,500 grant from Delaware’s urban forestry program.


Photo album available at the Delaware Forest Service’s Flickr page: 2021 Urban and Community Forestry Grants


Video from the Bowers Beach Planting Project

DOVER, Del. — The Delaware Urban and Community Forestry Program has awarded $135,193 for 36 tree projects through its annual grant program, which offers up to $5,000 for projects on public land and community open space. All municipalities, homeowner associations, and certified nonprofits in Delaware can apply. Since it began, the program has provided over 588 grants for more than $1.86 million and planted more than 16,000 trees. The goal is to help communities increase tree canopy and promote the natural benefits of trees: cleaner air and water, increased property values and civic pride, and reduced storm water runoff and flooding.

Grants are made possible by the U.S. Forest Service and state funds and applications are approved by the Delaware Community Forestry Council and U&CF program staff.  Grants are also funded through partnerships with the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Nonpoint Source Program and the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy. Priority is given to first-time applicants, Tree Friendly Communities, and municipalities with urban tree canopy resolutions. Applicants must provide a 50-50 cost share match that can be met through volunteer labor, donated materials and services, or cash.  Awards range from $500 to a maximum of $5,000 in one of two project categories, tree planting or tree management, and all projects must take place on public lands.

Many of the urban forestry grant recipients – including the City of New Castle, the Town of Bowers, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Wilmington, and The Seasons Community in Sussex County – have completed their planting projects this fall. Autumn is an excellent time for tree planting. Temperatures are typically cooler so trees are less likely to be stressed by extreme heat. Fall rains can help trees establish their roots systems. When air temperatures are cooler than the soil, new root growth is encouraged so the tree can have a stronger, better-developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow. Mulching with wood chips also helps retain the soil’s required moisture.

Ron Vukelich is a New Castle resident who’s worked with the city’s Tree Advisory Commission  to revitalize the city’s tree canopy.

“The urban community canopy is useful in so many ways. It’s extremely helpful for the health of the community. It’s adding oxygen and removing all kinds of pollutants. At the same time, it’s making houses look a lot better. So, there’s an aesthetic aspect and a wellness portion to it,” Vukelich said. “Many of these trees were put in 40 to 50 years ago and they just reached a point where they are in need of refurbishing. So, in essence, this whole main street here is in the process of getting a whole new canopy.”

Tink Tocco is the Town of Bowers Parks and Recreation Commissioner, which planted 23 trees in a community open space recently thanks to a $3,500 grant from Delaware’s urban and community program.

“We had a tornado last year that blew down nine trees in one of our parks,” Tocco said. “That gave us a 17 percent tree canopy in Bowers Beach, which is absolutely not enough. And we are a bird-friendly town.” “We approached Taryn (Davidson) and the UCF Program … and they helped us through with the grant to acquire these trees. So it’s nice for everyone to come here and volunteer and step up instead of stepping back. From what I understand, it’s about $23 an hour [that] goes back to a matching grant of $3500. That goes not to the volunteers, but back to the actual project, for their volunteerism… and… we have about 25 people here today.”

Taryn Davidson is the Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester. Along with urban forestry director Kesha Braunskill and other staff, Davidson helps communities apply for grant funding and conducts site visits to assess the best locations and select the most appropriate species for tree plantings.

“The Town of Bowers was awarded a 2021 urban and community forestry grant, so today we came down here and planted 23 trees.” Davidson said. “Everyone from the community is here, which is wonderful. It’s nice to have a lot of helping hands on projects like these. One really good benefit from this project is going to be stormwater mitigation. You have a lot of floods coming in from the water behind us, from the beach, so we planted some hackberries and some cedars, which can do well in flooding zones as well as in drought zones. In case we don’t get a lot of rain one summer, they’re still going to be sustainable here.”

One of the major benefits to the urban and community forestry grant program is how it helps educate residents about trees and their many benefits, while also bringing volunteers together and fostering community spirit.

As Jay Baker, Bowers resident and tree planting volunteer explained, “I learned a lot here today. The forestry staff were explaining how to take care of the level of the roots and the mulching that goes up around it – all the best practices – so it was very educational. I think it’s good that the program included the volunteer hours because that really brought out the community and we got to spend time out here together and have a really deep appreciation for all these trees that are planted now.”

Melissa Kristic is a Bowers resident who also volunteered at the tree planting event: “I just want to do more within the community, just to help out and beautify it. I love the town. Just to be able to make it prettier. We’re making a lot of improvements around here the last couple of years and it’s been nice watching it grow.”

Caroline Dowd, Delaware urban and community forestry program
PHOTO: Caroline Dowd of Delaware’s urban and community forestry program helps plant a tree in Bowers Beach, which received a $3,500 grant to plant 23 trees.


UCF Grants 2021

The U&CF Program partnered with the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy (CC&E) to provide funding for tree planting projects in 11 communities this year. The Climate, Coastal and Energy program has goals that focus on carbon sequestration and trees meet this objective by providing long-term carbon storage. Each tree planted through the grant program will have its carbon values calculated and help contribute to the goals in the state’s climate action plan. Delaware is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program developed as a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia to cap and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector. Money raised through the initiative is returned to participating states to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other consumer benefit programs. In Delaware, the RGGI program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

Taryn Davidson, urban forester
PHOTO: The Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester Taryn Davidson, shows volunteers the proper way to mulch a tree at a recent planting event in Bowers Beach, which received a $3,500 grant to plant 23 trees in its community park.


New Castle trees
The City of New Castle received a $5,000 grant to help plant new serviceberry trees along its Main Street. The trees are part of a multi-year project to increase tree canopy and replace aging trees that have grown too large.


Climate Coastal UCF 2021 

The USDA Forest Service provides funding to plant trees within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Trees help meet goals outlined in Delaware’s Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which include targeted goals that each of the Bay watershed jurisdictions will take to meet the pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by 2025. These plans consider such things as ecological restoration and sustainability while allowing for greater transparency and accountability for improved performance. The U&CF Program funded two projects for $10,005.

Ches Bay UCF 2021


The U&CF Program partnered with the Nonpoint Source Program (NPS) of DNREC to plant trees in EPA priority watersheds in Delaware. The program aims to address the issue of NPS pollution as it affects Delaware’s numerous waterbodies. Efforts include grant funding, education, outreach, and partnerships with other organizations. Reductions in NPS pollution can be achieved through the incorporation or installation of specific best management practices (BMPs) addressing agriculture, silviculture, construction, septic systems, and hydromodification activities. Tree plantings are a BMP that can help intercept stormwater and nutrient runoff, reduce sedimentation and erosion, and filter pollutants. In FY21, $25,006 was provided to six community groups to fund tree projects that address NPS pollution.

Seasons Community - Sussex County
The Seasons Community planted trees in their community open space thanks to a 2021 Delaware urban and community forestry grant.


Nonpoint UCF 2021

The U&CF Program provides annual funding for projects that meet program goals to reach milestones from Delaware’s Forest Action Plan. Each of the projects funded this year provided trees that were planted in areas to help prevent storm damage, mitigate heat island effects, increase tree canopy and foster appreciation for our urban forests.

Focus UCF 2021
*Grant requests are not final until project completion. All requirements, including cost-share match, must be met before final approval is granted by the U&CF Program.

“Saluting Branches” – Arborist Day of Service

Dozens of tree care professionals volunteered at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro for the 7th Annual “Saluting Branches: Arborist United for Veteran Remembrance” event.

MILLSBORO, Del. — Dozens of arborists and professionals from three Delaware tree care companies volunteered for the 7th Annual “Saluting Branches” event by devoting a day to trimming, shaping, and removing hazardous trees from the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro. The Delaware site was one of 40 sites throughout the United States that participated in the event, which attracted more than 3,000 volunteers. Workers from Tri-State Tree Care, Complete Tree Care, and Cypress Tree Care spent their entire day as a way to pay tribute to the veterans and their service.

Jay Ashby, who runs Cypress Tree Care and also serves as Chair of Delaware’s Community Forestry Council, called it a “Great day of service for our resting veterans.”

Joe Shoup from Cypress Tree Care was glad to be back after participating in 2019 but having last year’s event canceled because of COVID-19.

Joe Shoup and Frank Silva
PHOTO: Joe Shoup of Cypress Tree Care with Frank Silva Jr., grounds foreman at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro.

“There was a lot of hazard work. They had a lot of dead wood and a lot of dead trees that needed to be taken down. That first year we were able to get a big chunk of work done and as such the trees looked a lot nicer but they were also a lot safer,” Shoup said. “This year… we’re able to do a lot of reduction pruning on these older, more mature oak trees… If we can get here for the next two, three years in a row, we should have this place up to snuff and there shouldn’t be any more hazards left.”

Frank Silva, Jr., who serves as the grounds foreman for  Delaware’s Office of Veterans Services, is extremely grateful for the professional expertise and dedication that the workers provide.

“These huge old oaks that are several hundred years old, they’re too large for us to take care of. We don’t have the equipment or the manpower to take care of that and we’re not professional arborists,” Silva said.

“It’s very important to us to keep the place looking pretty good as you can see,” he continued. “It’s a place of honor and respect. We’re all veterans… everyone who works for this commission is a veteran, so it’s an important job to us. And all the work that they do really helps out.”

Tree care worker and large oak tree
PHOTO: A tree care professional works on a large oak tree at the Delaware Veterans Cemetery in Millsboro. Workers from three Delaware companies volunteered for the annual “Saluting Branches” event as a day of service to America’s veterans.

Silva estimated that almost 6,000 Delaware veterans and spouses are currently interred at the cemetery, which is why it’s so important they and their families continue to have a well-maintained place of honor and respect when they are laid to rest. The Millsboro veterans cemetery covers about 65 acres, of which about 25 acres is currently in use for burials and interments. The site is expected to grow in the years ahead to accommodate future applications.

Saluting Branches event at Veterand Cemetery in Millsboro

Forest Service Observes “Outdoor Classroom Day”

Heritage Elementary tree planting
The Delaware Forest Service’s Ashley Melvin directs Heritage Elementary students in Wilmington as they planted over 30 trees to enhance its outdoor classroom.

DOVER, Del. (May 21, 2021) — The Delaware Forest Service joined the Delaware Association for Environmental Education (DAEE) to observe “World Outdoor Classroom Day” by planting trees this week at Heritage Elementary in Red Clay School District and Allen Frear Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District. An outdoor learning place is “any place where meaningful experiences can be had in and with nature and the environment,” according to DAEE.  “Outdoor learning places are especially beneficial to young students to develop the deep life-long appreciation for the natural world, our dependence on it, and its fragility. Outdoor learning places are often at schools but they can be at parks, churches, or even created in a backyard.”

DAEE  is a volunteer-led alliance of professionals from natural resource agencies, nonprofits, and schools who strive to create “meaningful outdoor experiences” to enhance learning across a wide range of curriculum areas. DAEE and the “Delaware Communities in Nature”(DCIN) initative developed Delaware’s “environmental literacy plan” in 2015. The document serves as a foundational blueprint to expand environmental education beyond traditional core STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) into areas such social studies, history, art, and physical education.

Delaware Forest Service education specialist Ashley Melvin is the current chair of DAEE, and the organization is urging schools and organizations throughout the First State to join its “Outdoor Learning Network,”  an initiative building an online “story map” that locates outdoor learning spaces on a map and shares them with others to build a community of learners to foster environmental education across the curriculum. Educators can then learn from others who are incorporating the outdoors into lesson plans for various subject areas.

“These outdoor learning spaces create opportunities for students to get involved and enhance their own community,” Melvin said. “It’s something meaningful that they can hopefully use on a daily basis.”

DAEE holds an annual conference every spring and fosters the Delaware “Communities in Nature” initiative. The group provides a wealth of year-round resources, professional mentoring, and enrichment opportunities for those who are looking to get started or continue their efforts in environmental education. DAEE’s board and leadership team includes representatives from the Delaware Nature Society, Delaware State Parks, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, private corporations, as well as public, private, and charter schools.

Schools or educators interested in getting more information can email DAEE at daeeonline@gmail.com

At Heritage Elementary in the Red Clay School District, students from every grade level planted more than 30 trees to enhance the school’s new outdoor classroom. At Allen Frear Elementary in the Caesar Rodney School District, the high school’s National Junior Honor Society joined fourth- and fifth-grade students to plant native trees and plants in a converted drainage basin in the parking lot. The area is now a “bioswale,” an outdoor learning space near the school’s main entrance that can serve as a certified “Schoolyard Habitat.” Todd Klawinski is Caesar Rodney School District’s environmental education specialist and a board member of DAEE. The bioswale is one of many outdoor learning spaces – including one at nearby Postlethwait Middle School – that earned the district a “National Green Ribbon School Award” from the U.S. Department of Education in 2019.

According to DAEE, meaningful outdoor experiences generate benefits for students in many areas:

  • Better performance on standardized metrics in reading, writing, math, science and social studies
  • Reduced discipline and classroom management problems
  • Increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning
  • Greater pride and ownership in accomplishments
  • College and career STEM job readiness.
  • More chances to physically move and practice a healthy lifestyle
  • Better understanding of the natural resources within the state
  • A well-rounded community of people knowledgeable about environmental issues
  • Increased exposure and preparation for careers and jobs where people work outdoors

Allen Frear Outdoor Classroom
David Pragoff of the Delaware Nature Society directs students at Allen Frear Elementary as they plant native trees and shrubs in their bioswale.

David Pragoff, School and Groups Team Leader at the Delaware Nature Society, touted the many benefits of the project at Allen Frear Elementary School:

“In addition to a space like this that has environmental benefits, we want to make sure that we are using it with the students so that they can enhance their science learning, or their language arts, or their math. Interdisciplinary learning in a space like this can be really powerful and really meaningful for kids.”

Pragoff outlined how outdoor learning spaces provide opportunities to help students meet curriculum objectives at every grade level.

“At the first-grade level, they’re focusing on organisms and what they need to survive. So looking at any individual plant or collection of plants, what are their specific needs? And how can we help them survive in a space like this? What are the insects? And what are the birds and other wildlife species that are brought into these plants because they are a food source or source for shelter? And at the second-grade level, they focus on soils and they focus on insects and life cycles. And so we’ve got lots of soil, and with luck, we’ll have lots of insects and pollinators coming through this space. Third grade does an earth science unit on rocks and minerals. We can look at the soil conditions and relate that back to where the soil is coming from and the change over time. Fourth grade is life cycles and land and water – so we’re looking at erosion and deposition, which is apparent all around us on the ground. And then fifth grade is looking at ecosystems more broadly, so the interaction between species and in a space like this. And that’s just the science curriculum. There’s poetry, spontaneous writing and storytelling, or math. How many plants can be supported in a certain area of space? And arts are endless. They could do sculptural installations, drawing and painting, or just observation skills.”

Just the immersive experience of students getting their hands dirty and touching nature can be an impactful experience: “Just that first step of showing them it’s okay to get your hands in the dirt. We definitely had a couple of kids who were upset that their hands were dirty and they were talking about washing their hands and were a little reluctant at first, but as they saw other people were getting engaged, they got into it. All in all, the kids did a fantastic job.

Todd Klawinski, Environmental Education Specialist at Caesar Rodney School District, hopes to see the network of educational partnerships growing in the future. The effort is highlighted by a new web-based “story map” for Delaware’s Outdoor Learning Network with locations and features of outdoor classrooms throughout the state. In this way, educators can learn from each other about innovative ideas that can benefit and reach more students.”

“The story map we’re working on is to collect and mark out on a map where people are doing stuff like this. Whether it’s just starting something like a pollinator garden or even just planning it… that network just connects everybody,” Klawinski said.

“What DAEE is doing just moves that to the next level and identifying where all these spaces are so that people can go and see them, learn from them, and then start to expand outdoor learning spaces across the state.”

DAEE Leadership: (from left) David Pragoff of the Delaware Nature Society, Todd Klawinski of Caesar Rodney School District, Ashley Melvin of the Delaware Forest Service, and Flavia Rutkosky of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.