The Avon Grove Charter School Conservation Area

The Avon Grove Charter School Conservation Area

Students in the Hardwood Forest within the AGCS Conservation Area - click for larger image

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Students in the Hardwood Forest within the AGCS Conservation Area

Students Re-Introduced Native Fish to an On-Campus Stream in May of 2011 - click for larger image

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Students Re-Introduced Native Fish to an On-Campus Stream in May of 2011

Avon Grove Charter School's Meadows are Filled with Blooming Wildflowers in the Warmer Months - click for larger image

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Avon Grove Charter School's Meadows are Filled with Blooming Wildflowers in the Warmer Months

The Avon Grove Conservation Area is located on of 23 acres of “naturalized" land at the Avon Grove Charter School's State Road Campus in West Grove, PA.  

Early on,  our school began looking very carefully at the ways we were utilizing the substantial amount of on-campus "open space," which had been habitually  mowed and essentially neglected since our school building was first constructed in 1928. 

It seemed unfortunate that so much of our campus was being used for nothing more than the maintenance of long stretches of sod which served no practical purpose.  We realized that we were spending a great deal of time and money to sustain non-native grasses in sections of our campus which could, with some changes,  support wildlife and counterbalance some of the negative environmental changes occurring throughout our region.

The rapid development of the area surrounding AGCS made the urgency of local habitat preservation increasingly apparent.   In 2008, developers began working on the opposite side of State Road, and within weeks, one of the only remaining tall grass meadows in our region had disappeared beneath the bulldozer. The disturbingly swift pace of development was making our local environment almost unrecognizable. 

The Avon Grove Charter School's Conservation Area is our school's response to habitat destruction and environmental degradation.   Today, the Conservation Area is an island of biodiversity within one of the most rapidly developing parts of our state.  The conservation area has been undergoing intensive restoration designed to encourage a wide variety of habitat types, which now enable AGCS students and the general public to experience, explore, and better understand the natural world.

The AGCS Conservation Area is also a valuable "outdoor laboratory" within which students can practice hands-on science according to the discovery-based learning principles upon which our school was founded. In years to come, we hope it will also broadcast a conservation ethic which will radiate through our local community, and promote the preservation of some of the last wild places in Chester County.

Rare Plants and Animals in The Conservation Area

Over the past several years, the AGCS conservation area has become a haven for plants and animals which are becoming increasingly rare in our state.   Students have played a direct role in species restoration within the conservation area and they can take direct credit for the re-introduction of the following rare, threatened, or endangered plants species (see the USDA's list of threatened and endangered plants in Pennsylvania) in our conservation area:

  • Wild Senna

  • Sweetbay Magnolia

  • Rattlesnake Master

  • Sweetflag

  • Gray-Headed Coneflower

  • Dwarf Crested Iris

  • Meehan's Mint

  • Bush Clover

  • Willow Oak

Through a "Greenworks"  grant provided through Project Learning Tree, AGCS students also worked to improve meadow and scrubland habitat on campus, and reintroduced Bobwhite Quail to the area utilizing a cutting edge brooding system known as the "Surrogator."

During the 2011-12 school year, AGCS added a "Rare Trees Orchard"  to its Conservation Area, within which students will raise American Chestnut (hybrid) trees in a effort to preserve the genetics of this once common American tree which was pushed to the edge of extinction by chestnut blight, an incredibly damaging disease.   The Orchard also includes American Elm trees (which had been devistated by Dutch Elm Disease, but are recovering),  and some rare "heirloom"  fruit trees which are in danger of extinction.

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