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Find the WILD things at Dobbins

September 29, 2011
By Kathleen Palumbo
The quiet neighborhood setting and nature-friendly exterior of Dobbins Elementary School is misleading. Sure, at first glance it may be the picture of peace and serenity, what with its designated bird-feeding areas, raised gardens and nature trail, but within the confines of the facility, one will find a group with a respect for nature so untamed that they’ve recently been named a WILD School Site.

The sounds of various common birds of Ohio played as students entered an assembly on Friday, Sept. 23. The assembly contained a collection of photos compiled by the Soil and Water Conservation District showing the school’s gardens in various stages. Jamey Graham, wildlife communications specialist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, presented a plaque to the school in recognition of its distinction.

“Here at Dobbins there’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy and you have helped to enhance the habitat,” said Graham.

Also present were Shelly Covert, and Sean McGuire of The Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District, where Covert serves as an administrative assistant, and McGuire, an urban conservationist.

According to Dobbins Elementary School Principal Cheryl Borovitcky, the development of a portion of land along the school grounds to provide a special outdoor learning environment for their classes was a true collaboration.

She went on to name staff, students, families, Ohio Division of Wildlife grants, Fellows Riverside Gardens donations, a Youngtown State University Science grant, fundraising efforts, and a significant contribution made through the school’s partnership with the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District. The MCSWCD chose the Dobbins Nature Trail to be their Poland Community Phase 2 Project, as the collaborating sources of the successful project.

Explaining that the early phase of the trail included development of the bird-feeding areas, raised gardening, and animal tracks observation areas, Borovitcky went on to speak of the next phase. She said that phase included creating a framed butterfly/hummingbird garden, continued the raised gardening area and framed and mulched the trail.

“Today I am happy to say the nature trail has grown to include bird watching and feeding, animal tracks observation, raised gardening, rain water collection, and our most recent addition of the butterfly/hummingbird garden,” said Borovitcky.

Each grade has been incorporating the use of the areas into their curriculum, with the fourth-graders using the area for outdoor lessons, and first graders preparing to grow seeds in a classroom greenhouse for use in next springs planting in the butterfly garden.

“All of our classes are observing and some students have spotted Monarch butterflies in the garden,” said Borovitcky.

She noted the participation of teachers, custodians, and family volunteers who spent time this past summer watering and weeding in the garden.

“With such wonderful care, it is no wonder that I received notification that our Butterfly Garden has been named a Monarch Way Station,” said Borovitcky, adding that they will be providing a special habitat for the Monarch’s in Ohio. “Our work here at Dobbins has been noticed.”

Accepting the recognition on behalf of the school, she added, “It is shared by all of the staff, students, families and partners who have worked together to support our outdoor learning project.”

Information provided by Graham describes a WILD School site as “any school property used by students, teachers, and the school community as a place to learn about and benefit wildlife and the environment.”

To qualify for WILD School Certification, a WILD School Site must demonstrate program development and site enhancement consistent with guidelines provided by ODNR. Further information can be found at

Article Photos

Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Shelly Covert and Sean McGuire, of the Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District; Jamey Graham of the ODNR, Division of Wildlife; and Dobbins Elementary School Principal Cheryl Borovitcky join fourth grade students Carley Francis, Alexa Black, Gianna Carbon, Mia Gaidus, Michael Kushner and Chase Wern in celebration of the school’s recent distinction in being named a WILD School Site.



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