Carroll County Public Schools Outdoor School

 Ready to TAKE ACTION?

Here are 8 ideas to Take Action, keep scrolling down to find out the do's and don'ts and tips of the trade. Make sure you get some help from an adult before completing a project! Ready? Set? GO!!!

Planting Native Trees

To find a list of native trees, check out the Native Plant Guide.

1. Once you have your tree and have researched where it should be planted; then dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the tree's container.

2. Center the tree in the hole. Test to see that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding ground. Orient and straighten the tree.

3. Backfill loose soil around root ball and tamp with hand or foot.

4. Build a circle of mulch that goes around the base of the tree trunk like a donut, but does not touch the tree.

5. Fill a bucket several times with water and water the tree thoroughly. Monitor your tree to make sure it gets enough water.


Rain Barrels

A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from rooftops to use for watering plants and gardens, even during a drought. You can also wash cars and windows with your rain water! Normally, the water collected in a rain barrel would pour off your roof directly or flow through the downspouts and become runoff. 

1. You can purchase a rain barrel; just check in local hardware stores or the internet. Or you can make one of your own! If you would like to make one, find a large barrel (typically 55 gallons) or try to be creative and reuse something around the house! If you can't find anything, you can just purchase a heavy duty, thick plastic trash can. Trash cans are great because they have a lid which makes them easier to clean.

2. Observe your house while it rains to find the best spot. They typically go right beside your house under a downspout. Find a nice firm and level surface. Your rain barrel will also need a lid and mesh to cover any openings to prevent mosquitos and debris form entering.

3. Tools you will need if you build your own rain barrel:

  • Safety glasses
  • Drill
  • Silicone caulk
  • Tin snips or heavy duty scissors
  • One-inch spade bit
  • Spigot
  • Screen or mesh
  • 3 ft. of hose

4. Build a solid, level and raised foundation for your rain barrel. Concrete or cinder blocks work well for this part.

5. Create a hole on the top of the rain barrel that is large enough to accommodate the downspout. Cover the hole with the mesh or screen to keep debris out of the barrel.

6. Create the drain and overflow holes. Choose a spot on the side of your rain barrel for your lower drain hole (it should be an inch or two up from the bottom of the barrel) and cut it out. Next, choose a spot on the other side of the barrel near the top for the overflow hole.  

7. Install the overflow hose. Coat the end of the hose with your silicone caulk and attach to the barrel.

8. Next, attach the spigot. Using the silicone caulk, screw the spigot into the hole. You can then attach a garden hose to the spigot.

9. Feel free to add some personal touches. You can drill drain holes into the top of the rain barrel. This will allow water to drain into the barrel and prevent standing water from collecting on the lid. You can also paint your rain barrel with a good message or some creative pictures explaining its purpose to others.

10. Attach your rain barrel to the downspout. Place your rain barrel in its place and then cut the downspout to the appropriate height. Aim the end so it will pour directly into the barrel.

11. Maintain your rain barrel! They require little maintenance but be sure the water from the downspout is emptying into the barrel. If you notice that your rain barrel is full, use or save the water before the next rain storm! Once a year, you should also clean the barrel. Using a mixture of vinegar and water, or a light bleach and water solution; scrub the interior of the barrel’s walls and bottom with the brush. Then rinse your barrel again and let dry. Also, during your yearly cleaning, inspect the mesh lining, spigot and overflow hose and make sure they are in good shape!


Rain Gardens

  A rain garden protects the Bay by capturing runoff and filtering the water. A rain garden is a depression with native plants. Besides helping with water quality, rain gardens are beautiful, help control flooding and create habitats for birds and beneficial insects. 

1. Pick a location-it should be in a naturally occurring low spot in your yard or a place near a runoff source like a downspout or asphalt driveway.

2. Choose native plants which can grow in wet & dry conditions. Check the Native Plant Guide for details.

3. Dig your garden; you should dig approximately 4-8 inches down and mix in compost.

4. Plant the plants in your rain garden; they should be around 1ft. apart from each other.

5. Mulch your rain garden! Mulch should be about 2-3 inches deep.


 Bird Boxes (Artificial Cavities)

When we put up nesting boxes for cavity-nesting birds. we are providing these species with important shelter due to loss of trees. There are over 28 species of birds in Carroll County that need a cavity to build a nest in. Make sure you research what box you need based on the bird species you are trying to attract!

Here are some tips to help you with your blue bird box:

  • A good box should be ventilated, watertight, easy to monitor and easy to clean. (Have a door on one side that can open up to the inside).
  • Cedar and pine are ideal and artificial wood can be used as well. Boxes can be painted or stained but use a light color!
  • Treated lumber should not be used because it can be toxic to the birds.
  • Blue bird boxes never should have a perch, although if you are trying to attract other birds (sparrows and wrens), perches are okay.
  • The box should have a round 1 1/2 inch hole for an entrance.

Thanks to the North American Bluebird Society for this information!

Click on the link below for a plan to build an Eastern Bluebird box...

How to Build a One-Board Bluebird House



Composting is an easy, cheap and FUN way to recycle certain foods and create a natural fertilizer for your lawn and gardens. There are many different types of composters, you may choose to enclose your pile with wire fence, pallets or other materials. There are also several styles of bins and tumblers you may purchase as well.

1. Pick a location for your compost pile.

2. Start adding "stuff" to your pile.

  • Vegetable & fruit scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Breads
  • Grass, leaves, sticks and other yard wastes
  • Ashes & saw dust

Do NOT add any meat scraps, bones, dairy products, oils or fats. These products may attract animals and cause an unwanted odor.

3. Turn the compost pile with a shovel or pitch fork once a week for a quick compost.

4. Dark, rich soil will be the result. You can then use it for flowers, vegetables or potted plants.

 A healthy compost pile full of bugs and earthworms is an all-you-can-eat buffet for backyard birds. In the spring, birds  also raid compost piles looking for twigs and grasses to build nests.


 Milkweed Gardens

A great idea to help our beautiful Monarch butterflies is building a Milkweed garden. Milkweed is the ONLY species that the butterfly will lay its eggs on and the ONLY plant the caterpillar will eat. There is a lot less milkweed than there was in the past which is a disaster for Monarch butterflies. Monarch butterfly populations are dropping and a milkweed garden would be very beneficial.

No milkweed=No monarchs!

1. First find a nice place in your yard to build a raised bed for your milkweed plants. You can also plant them into already established gardens.

2. Get some milkweed! Common Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed are species that grow well in our area. You can research these plants on the Native Plant Guide. You can start your milkweed from seeds or buy already established plants from a local nursery. If you are buying milkweed, all milkweeds are of the genus Asclepias. Make sure you know the genus because they may not be labeled "Milkweed" since many people shy away from anything that has "weed" in the name.

3. Plant your milkweed approximately 12 inches away from one another. Water often until established.

4. Watch for caterpillars and butterflies during the summer and early fall!


Energy Conservation

Saving electricity is very important! Put into practice an energy conservation plan for your household that reduces your electric bill and helps the environment too! Watch your family and their routines for a month and see where you can save energy. From there, try some of these ideas to get you started.  If you do 5/9 of the following items, you can get your additional 10 service hours.

1. Turn off lights when you leave the room.

2. Turn off and unplug appliances (TVs, videogames, computers) when they are not being used.

3. Use less hot water.

4. Turn the thermostat down to 65˚ F in the winter.

5. Turn the A/C to above 72˚ in the summer.

6. Use energy efficient light bulbs- CFLs.

7. Draft-proof your home by checking for air leaks around doors and windows.

8. Place insulating blankets on hot water heaters and pipes.

9. Only leave the refrigerator open long enough to get what you need.

Try to create other energy saving ideas. Write up your household plan and submit it with your Student Service Learning form.

Water Conservation

Why is saving water so important? There is a limited supply of clean water. Any water that is used in your home must be cleaned at a water treatment facility.  Watch your family and their routines for a month to determine how you can save water in your home!  If you do 8/13 of the following items, you can get your additional 10 service hours.

1. Install a low flow showerhead.

2. Turn the water off when you brush your teeth or while washing your face or hands.

3. Turn off the water while you wash the dishes. Leave only a light stream for rinsing.

4. Fix leaking faucets or toilets.

5. It you have an old toilet, place a brick or small jug of water in the tank of your toilet to displace water, which then uses less to fill the tank.

6.  Take quick showers- try for 5 minutes or less! Or wait even a BAY SHOWER!!!

7. Do not water your lawn- if you absolutely have to, do so in the morning or night: native plants don’t require this as much! Hint, hint.

8. Use a watering can to water gardens and house plants.

9. Wash your car with a bucket of soapy water. Do not leave the water running!

10. Only flush the toilet when you absolutely have to.

11. Use water from boiling or steaming vegetables to water plants after the water has cooled.

12. Use a broom, rather than a hose, to clean off walkways and patios.

13. Ask your family and friends to use less water.

You can put into practice a household water conservation plan to earn your service hours. Submit your plan with your service hour form.