Jackson-Via Elementary School Owl Magnet
Building an Owl Food Chain: One of the best ecology class lessons possible for learning about owls is to challenge a teacher and class to design and build a real owl food-chain. It begins with the installation of a large locally adapted native plant meadow that intersects a large contiguous woods. Jackson-Via Elementary School has the woods, and the woods are connected to a stream corridor. Owls pass through nightly. If you want them to stay, you need to create a reason for them to stay: food and habitat. The school grounds needed a shrubby ecotone connected to its forest, and rich biologically diverse native plant meadow connected to and extending from that ecotone. From there one builds the food chain: small insects, large insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, birds, and the entire food web and living biomass required to support a predator like a screech owl, great horned owl, or barred owl. During its founding, Center for Urban Habitats was enlisted to come up with a plan. The result was an ecosystem design that would serve as a guide for the creation and maintenance of a native prairie that would be connected to an extensive forest.
This ecosystem design was implemented as a partnership between Center for Urban Habitats, JW Townsend, the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (providing 80% of the funding), Jessica Primm Design, and Charlottesville public schools.