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Trends in STEM

Building Backyard Habitats

You don’t need to go far to introduce your child to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fun this summer – it’s as easy as stepping into your backyard! No matter where you live, there are plenty of native plants, insects and animals to discover, support and observe from your own home. Observing the nature around you is an enriching way to build important skills and explore science!

If you’ve found yourself asking, “How can I build a backyard wildlife habitat to attract some of these curious critters?”, keep reading as we share some simple tips and tricks to make your space more inviting for your wild friends.


Design a Simple Wildlife Hangout

Making a wildlife-friendly space does not require a total backyard renovation. The small choices we make every day can help local insects and animals find shelter in a storm, solace on a hot day and comfort when raising young. Animals, like us, need a safe space to rest, clean water to drink and a source of food.

You might even have a few of these wildlife needs covered already! Do you have an evergreen tree, a pile of firewood, a tall patch of plants or even a rock pile? These are all great locations for insects and small animals to hide. If your natural landscape is short on these features, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends building a brush pile as a safe shelter for a large variety of small wildlife. This can be as simple as pilling twigs, branches, logs and loose leaves in areas of your yard that would otherwise provide little shelter.

Ponds, birdbaths and rain gardens are all popular wildlife water sources. For food, your hungry friends could benefit from a variety of plants. Be sure to research plants that are native to your area to offer the most benefits to your local wildlife. Some plants produce foods like seeds, berries or nectar. Others attract insects that help feed hungry wildlife!


Use Small Spaces to Make a Big Difference

Do you have a small yard or no yard at all? Don’t worry – windows, balconies and patios can still offer ample opportunity for observing nature. Keep reading for a few ways you can use your small outdoor space to make a big difference for wildlife.

Toad homes and frog hotels offer cool, shady places for amphibians that might be part of your native environment. To create a toad home of your own, place a terracotta pot on its side or upside down and prop it up with small rocks. There should be enough space for a toad to get in and out, while providing coverage to keep them safe. Place this in a shaded spot and add a small, flat dish of water nearby – like a terracotta plant saucer. Many toads are nocturnal, so they will appreciate a cool place to hunker down during the day.

Frog hotels are slightly more advanced but take up just as little space. Start with a large tub of rocks. Then, an adult should carefully cut PVC pipes of varying lengths and widths to place upright in the tub. Fill with water and place in a safe, shaded area. For an additional welcoming feature, include a few native water plants. Water-loving frogs will love resting in the shaded pipes between meals.

Not jumping for joy around amphibians? Check out this blog to put your creativity to the test when you open a backyard bug hotel and set up an animal observation station! For our feathered friends, this blog will help you support various species of birds while building awesome observation skills.


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Keep an eye on our blog for other fun ways to help bring STEM learning to life!

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