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Learn. Think. Explore.
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What Is Habitat?

Introduction to Plants

Native plants are the backbone of your schoolyard habitat site! They form the basis of essential habitat elements for just about all animals — food, water, shelter, and places to raise young. Teacher with students, student planting, and native flowers with butterfly Without plants, you don't have a schoolyard habitat site.

Choosing what plants to put into your habitat is important — you’ll want to select plants that are native to your area and that will attract the kinds of wildlife you would like to see visiting and using your habitat. Selecting the right plants is one of the key elements to creating a successful site.

What's a Native Plant?

A native plant is a species that naturally occurs in an area and has not been introduced from another region or country. Native plants thrive in their natural settings without disrupting ecological processes because they are perfectly adapted to the conditions of that area. Native plants provide the best diversity of habitat elements for wildlife. Wildlife species have evolved to rely upon native plants as food, cover, and sometimes even for water. National Wildlife Federation® strongly encourages the use of native plants in all new plantings.

By choosing native plants for your Schoolyard Habitats® site, you will:

  • provide the best overall food sources for wildlife.
  • require less water and overall maintenance.
  • provide excellent support to local wildlife species.
  • help maintain the diversity of plant species in our communities.

How do I find out which plants are native to my area? A good question! To find out, visit eNature.com®.

Click here for a native plant list to create an exciting sensory garden for all students, including those with visual disabilities.


The following activities will help students explore the plants in their surroundings.

Tree Detectives
Learning how to identify trees by studying their different parts and examining their habitats can help students become familiar with local plant life. Click here for an activity that will help students practice observation skills and apply them to identifying trees in their neighborhoods.

Photosynthesis Phun
In order to survive and grow, green plants need sunlight, water, soil, and carbon dioxide from the air. Click here for an activity that enables participants to explore plant needs with live plants.

Flower Hunt
What flowers grow in your schoolyard? Click here for an activity that guides students in a hunt for different kinds of flowers!