Groff's Plant Farm Images


Published: Thu May 11th 2017




















This Wednesday 20 students from Bart-Colerain Elementary traveled to the Lancaster Central Park to participate in the Jr. Envirothon.

This is a program for 3-6th grade students designed to enhance children’s learning of science and ecology. They study birds, mammals, trees and plants and a fourth rotating category every year. This year’s theme is Backyard Habitats. This category includes natural habitats like snags (dead trees), brush piles, man-made habitats like rain gardens, bird feeders and water stations, and environmental practices like catch- and-release fishing and low-mow zones.

The students learn to identify birds by sight and by their calls. They also learn about the migration patterns, diet and nesting of 12 Pennsylvania birds that would commonly be found in a backyard habitat such as the Northern Cardinal, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and Cooper’s Hawk.

Students study Pennsylvania mammals ranging from the tiny white-footed mouse to the white-tailed deer. In learning to identify these animals, they also discuss important issues facing animal populations like White-Nose Syndrome in the Little Brown Bat and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) affecting our deer population.

In the tree section, they learn about plants and the role they play in the environment. The Pin Oak produces acorns to feed small mammals, and ornamental shrubs such as the winterberry holly whose persistent fruit provides nutrition for birds on their return migration. They also study which trees are suitable for harvesting in Pennsylvania’s timber industry.

They learn to distinguish their surrounding; which animals are active at night and which are diurnal, plants that are deciduous or evergreen, birds that migrate versus ones that stick around all winter. In a world where kids are increasingly seen with their heads in electronic devices, this program encourages them to look at the world around them with a critical eye and identify interactions between plant and animal life.

The curriculum is designed in cooperation with the Lancaster Parks Department, Conservation District and the Game Commission but relies on parent volunteers and some interested teachers at the local school level to form the teams and instruct the students.

There are also supplemental Saturday review sessions where the students have the opportunity go to Middle Creek and the Environmental Center for additional instruction by park educators, see animal specimens, and go on plant walks to see the plant species growing.

I have been helping with Bart’s team since my son was in third grade and have been consistently impressed with the level of knowledge these kids can achieve. If you have any interest in these topics, and want to help the next generation learn more about the natural world around them consider helping with or starting a team at your local school. More information can be found at

**Update.  Our 5th grade team came in 2nd and our 4th grade team came in 3rd.  Congratulations on all your hard work kiddos!