Grand Bahama
Lucaya International School receives Wildlife Habitat Certification
By Erika Gates
Jun 25, 2016 - 1:39:13 PM

Lucaya International School receiving Gardening for Wildlife Certification - Back row with teacher Martin Suarez the Gardening team and front row with librarian Susan Krupica, the year 5 and 6 Birding class --- Right: Certified Wildlife Habitat signs are placed in the school’s Gardening area and along the Wetland Trail

To help reconnect today’s students to the outdoors, the National Wildlife Federation assists schools in developing outdoor classrooms where educators and students learn how to attract and support local wildlife.

These wildlife habitats become places where students not only learn about wildlife species and ecosystems, but they also hone their academic skills and nurture their innate curiosity and creativity.

To meet the criteria for certification the students had to create a Wildlife Habitat that provides a number of specific elements for each of the followings habitat essentials:  FOOD, WATER, COVER, places to RAISE YOUNG and SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES. The site also needs to be used as a teaching tool. 

In the garden... Marilyn Laing and Chad Haddad prune a tree; Sophia Clark, Jim Pierson, and Brickelle Sands spread mulch after planting; and a zebra longwing is seen on a jatropha

Erika Gates and Marilyn Laing of Garden of the Groves provided assistance with the program and helped the students select the plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies as well as berries and fruit for birds. They instructed them in pruning the existing trees in the habitat area, preparing the ground, composting and planting. Two birdbaths provided the water feature and bird feeders were installed.

While the Gardening Team was led by teacher Martin Suarez, the Wetland Trail Team was led by Dr. Sylvia Bateman. The school is fortunate to be located adjacent to a wetland, a perfect outdoor classroom for bird observation, water sampling and plant biodiversity. This location was enhanced by Dr. Bateman’s team through the creation of a trail along its southern shoreline. A boardwalk and dock for better access into the wetland was built and donated by Grand Bahama Nature Tours. The students’ team created an observation stand for better viewing of the wetland as well and the site also received the Wildlife Habitat Certification.

The certified Garden and Wetland Wildlife Habitats at Lucaya International School have already become outdoor classrooms for librarian, Susan Krupica’s, Year 5 and 6 birding classes. Ms. Krupica has been trained by BirdsCaribbean to teach young children how to spot, identify and record birds as well as submit them into a global database, called ebird ( , which is kept by Cornell University, a prestigious ornithological institution. Over the past six months LIS wetland and schoolyard have submitted observations of 48 different bird species. Erika Gates accompanied and lectured the young birders on their fieldtrips. 

BirdsCaribbean sponsored the educational material “BirdSleuth Caribbean” and also provided the binoculars for the Birding Class. Dr. Lisa Sorenson, the Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean, stated “The Wildlife Habitat Certification program combined with birding and science activities in the BirdSleuth Caribbean curriculum is a wonderful way to engage children in learning about and enjoying the birds and nature all around them, as well as providing a home for wildlife. Congratulations to the LIS school and Garden of the Groves for this initiative—it’s a wonderful model for other schools around the Caribbean to follow.”

Year 5 class observing and studying birds at the school grounds; Top left is a male Blue-winged Teal enjoying his winter on the wetland; and Bottom right are Cattle Egrets at the playing field.

Over 3000 schools participated in the National Wildlife Federation program in the United States but Lucaya International School is the first school in the Bahamas to have received the Wildlife Habitat Certification. Mr. Michael Lowery, Principal of the school commented: "Students need an area in which they can take the theory learned in the classroom and put it into practice.  These two areas give our students a hands-on learning experience.  We are so grateful to have the assistance of Erika Gates and The Garden of Groves and all of the expertise.  Our outdoor classrooms also allow our students to receive a better understanding of our island and all of its resources and how important our environment is for our future.”

BirdsCaribbean is a vibrant international network of members and partners committed to conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats. We raise awareness, promote sound science, and empower local partners to build a region where people appreciate, conserve and benefit from thriving bird populations and ecosystems. We are a non-profit (501 (c) 3) membership organization. More than 100,000 people participate in our programmes each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region. You can learn more about us, our work, and how to join at:

The LIS Wetland Trail Team with Dr. Bateman, Marilyn and Erika Gates displaying Certification sign. See top right are greater and lesser yellowlegs from Alaska who spend the winter at the LIS wetland; Bottom left are blue-winged teals which migrate from Canada to the wetlands in large flocks; and bottom right are black-necked stilts that have nested at the wetland this spring.

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