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Birdwatching more than a flight of fancy

Birdwatching more than a flight of fancy

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8:00 pm

By MIKE JAMES
The Independent
ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — A birdwatching project at Rose Hill Christian School has proven so successful fourth-grade teacher Mori Crawford has found ways to use it for science, geography, research, technology and art instruction.
The children have sharpened their observational skills and honed their record-keeping ability.
About the only gripe Crawford has is they are sometimes too attentive to the project. “I’ve had to close the blinds twice this year to get them to focus on math or reading,”?she said.
Crawford hung two birdfeeders outside the classroom in October and since then her 11 students have gotten acquainted with nuthatches, house finches, song sparrows, tufted titmice and downy woodpeckers, among others. Her first-floor classroom is against a hillside, providing a sheltered feeding space for the birds and a natural backdrop for viewing them.
The children check off each species seen and the day they see it on a graph, and a weatherproof digital camera provided by Area Education Grants provides a visual record of species frequenting the feeders.
The solar-powered birdcam is equipped with a choice of motion sensor or timed exposure, so it can photograph the birds without a human operator.
The first species they identified, two days after installing the camera, was a house sparrow.
Shortly after that they identified chickadees and mourning doves, and then word must have gotten out into the bird community because within days the species list had jumped to almost 20.
Each time the children saw a species they looked to the Internet to identify it and find out more about its feeding, habitat, flying range and any other pertinent and interesting facts. Their site of choice is whatbird.com.
They also used printed field guides.
Next week they will create range maps to learn more about where else they might find each of the species and how far the birds outside their window may roam in their lifetimes.
Their grant also paid for a large supply of birdseed, which they needed to keep the birds happy during the winter months. The birds went through some 20 pounds of seed per week during the winter.
Some of the children have started putting out birdseed at home.
“We have a tree in the back yard and I put seed in it. It’s fun watching them,” said Hannah Davis. Since last month she has seen chickadees, bluejays and cardinals at home, she said.
“Some of the parents are saying they enjoy it as families. It’s wonderful that they are sharing what they’ve learned with their families,”?Crawford said.
Each child chose a species to specialize in. They have drawn and colored pictures of their birds in art class.
They will use some of the birdcam pictures to make a scrapbook that will go on display next month with other AEG projects at the Ashland Town Center.
Published in The Messenger 5.23.12

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