Utotes Projects

Creating a Place for Wildlife and Learning

UTOTES schoolyard projects include:

Native Plant Gardens

Butterfly Gardens — emphasizing native plants that provide both nectar for adults and host plants for the caterpillars. Try planting a butterfly-shaped garden (provides added interest in the winter) or a monarch butterfly garden (emphasis on milkweeds).

Hummingbird Garden — wildflowers and feeders designed to attract hummingbirds.

Wildflower Meadow — letting selected areas return to a more natural state by decreasing the frequency of mowing. Signage will help people appreciate your "meadow."

Mountains-to-Sea Native Plant Garden — plant wildflowers native to different regions of the state (your county/region); for added interest, plant a garden in the shape of North Carolina.

Tree Library — plantings of N.C. native trees with a "library" of teaching information.

Animal Habitats and Homes

Living Fence — selected native vines cover campus fencing to provide wildlife food and cover.

Rock and Brush Piles —  provide important cover for birds and other wildlife; signage helps people appreciate these critical habitat features.

Animal Inn — dead tree left standing to provide important habitat.

Rotten Log Area — create habitat for insects, salamanders and other wildlife by creating piles of decaying logs or stumps.

Dirt Dauber Mud Factory — create mud puddles on campus as habitat for temporary pool organisms and as mud source for mud dauber wasps.

Nesting/Roosting Boxes — for birds, squirrels, bats and even insects.

Caterpillar Cage — create a window screen outdoor cage for raising butterflies and moths and for leaving overwintering pupae in their natural environment.


Miniponds/School Grounds Wetlands — creating water sources for studying aquatic plant and animal life. We advise using large flat stones as a border on water gardens to allow safe, easy access by students.

Bog/Carnivorous Plant Garden — wading pool or other plastic liner buried in ground with appropriate soil mix added and then planted with insect-eating plants such as Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants.

Observation Stations

Tracking Box — sand-filled, baited areas (usually lined with timbers or boards) to study animal tracks.

Bird Feeder/Observation Areas — concentration of bird feeders, water sources and native plantings to provide food and cover; create observation blind for outdoor bird study.

Weather Station — best kept in lockable and portable structure for storage during extended breaks.

Sundial/Outdoor Compass — important to make connections between earth science and the natural world.

Soil Profile Box — plastic panels with closing wooden doors that provide a clear window into a vertical soil profile (best to dig into a sloped area on grounds); study soil organisms.

And more...

Nature Trails/Learning Stations — trail connecting learning stations around the campus or through natural areas.

Compost Pile — create your own topsoil and study decomposition; consider worm composting as an in-class project.

Stepping Stones — students can create their own garden stepping stones using fast-drying bag concrete mixes poured into simple molds (pizza boxes, pie tins, etc.). Hand prints, leaf impressions, or other artistic designs can be added.

Outdoor Seating/Amphitheater — provide comfortable work environment for students and teachers; lockable storage at the site is a nice addition.

Entrance Arbor — wooden entranceway to a habitat feature such as a meadow, trail or cluster of learning stations; excellent feature for local business contributions; creates a special learning place.

Migration Maps — large maps of U.S., N.C. or western hemisphere to help students understand our connections to other parts of the world through migration of birds, butterflies, etc.; can be painted on large paved areas adjacent to building.

Plant/Animal Walkway — for any new concrete being poured on campus, plan to incorporate tree leaves and other plant material from around your campus or simulated animal tracks into wet concrete to create a learning path.

UTOTES is co-sponsored by the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Initial funding was provided in part by the National Science Foundation.