The Wildcat Habitat Preserve is a 57 acre site surrounding Central Middle School. It consists of an old farm field, drained wetlands, and a small wood lot. Restoration began with the excavating of four ponds in the wetland area. About three acres of upland and four acres of wetland have been planted in prairie. The small existing wood lot has been enlarged and another small wood lot begun.
The nature preserve is dedicated to education and the stewardship of our natural resources. It serves as an outdoor classroom for the students of not only the middle school, but also the two elementary schools in Hartford. The students have been actively involved in the planning, development, and the management of the nature preserve. Students use the site as a laboratory to conduct experiments and carry out research in various fields of science.
The Wildcat Habitat Preserve has been developed using private donations from community service organizations such as:
- The Optimist Club
- The Jaycees
- The Junior Woman's Club
- Lincoln and Central School's PTOs
Grants were also received from various conservation groups including:
- The Hartford Gun Club
- The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association
- Ducks Unlimited
- Pheasants Forever
- Wisconsin Turkey Federation
The Restoration Process:
Since its inception in 1992, the students and staff have been trying to return the area to a more natural state thus providing habitat for a variety of plants and animals. Each year sixth graders plant acorns, hickory nuts and small saplings in an attempt to restore two small wood lots. The seventh graders plant approximately two acres of prairie each fall as a culminating activity for their ecology unit. The eighth graders conduct chemical and biological monitoring each spring on the four ponds that have been excavated. One of the lessons we hope will be learned is that it is fine to think globally, but if everyone would do a little in their own backyard, they could make a big impact on this place we call 'home.' As Aldo Leopold once said, "When we begin to understand the earth and it's creatures better, then we will begin to love and care for them as our own."
In the future we hope to be able to construct soil pits so the students can better study soil structure and horizons. The addition of one more pond, a storm water retention pond, might eventually be added if funding can be obtained. This pond would provide an opportunity to test the effects of urban runoff and the importance of natural wetlands to the cleansing of that water.
Retired Seventh Grade Science Teacher
Central Middle School