When Animation and Nature Collide

Last winter, students at Barnard Environmental Magnet School, in New Haven, Conn., learned how their schoolyard can be both a classroom as well as habitat for wildlife.

Made possible by PBS, Audubon Connecticut, and the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, these third-graders got to connect with nature through one of their favorite mediums: cartoons.


Students at Barnard Environmental Magnet School are working hard on their creature and habitat posters.


The producers of Plum Landing, an animated program on PBS, talked with the students about why they decided to make a cartoon about the environment. They also talked to kids about what their jobs are like, and how they chose that particular career path.


Here, teacher Francesca Williams teaches students about the environment.

During one of the program’s days, students bundled up against the cold to learn about the wildlife that reside right on their school grounds. Shaun Roche of Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and Francesca Williams of Audubon Connecticut taught lessons about their local environment, as well as encouraged students to explore the concept of schoolyard habitats. Students then developed their own sketches of what their schoolyard habitat could look like.

“Shaun and Francesca were wonderful to work with. They made the concepts come to life using our Schoolyard Habitat. Many of our students live in areas where it’s not safe for them to go outside,” said Mrs. Sousa, a third-grade teacher at Barnard Environmental Magnet School.

Barnard Environmental Magnet School is home to one of the first designated Schoolyard Habitats within the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, an initiative designed to get kids in urban areas outside to explore nature, a goal shared by PBS’s Plum Landing animated program.


Shaun Roche instructs students as they explore the habitat in their snowy schoolyard.


Said Mrs. Sousa, “The Schoolyard Habitat here at Barnard provides them with an opportunity to connect with nature that they may not otherwise have.”

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