Caroline Third-Graders Study Birds with Grant

June 21, 2016

DSC_0025Third-graders at Caroline Elementary School engaged in a birding case study this spring through a multi-disciplinary program funded in part by an Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) Red and Gold Grant and utilizing the school’s wilderness campus.

Students used binoculars purchased through the grant to conduct birding observations and nest-hunts as they researched local birds’ adaptations, habitats and life cycles. These observations were then added to an e-bird database so experts across the country could make use of their data.

“The binoculars enabled students to take a close look at various characteristics that different birds have,” Ryan Conklin said. “From there, they would cross-reference their own observations with field guides. This often led to discussion and debates over bird identification.”

The students’ research helped determine what the best type of habitat would be for each bird and how they could attract more birds to the school’s wilderness campus, Conklin added. With help from various parents, volunteers and donors, the class then created a bird habitat garden at the school. “This, in turn, has brought more birds to our school, and has prompted even more excitement to continue researching and learning about natural habitats and our very own local wildlife,” Conklin said.

During the grant-funded activity, each student chose one type of bird to research in depth. Combining science, writing, and math curriculums, students analyzed statistical data, kept research journals, wrote informational essays and created art including drawings, posters and paper mache birds.

The program culminated with a presentation during the school’s “Celebration of Learning” event on June 10—an annual school-wide event where each grade level shares and reflects upon each other’s best quality work. The third graders presented their bird case study in multiple ways, including Adobe Voice presentations, posters, written reports and newscasts.

“Many families announced that we had turned their students into regular birders,” Conklin said. “This led families to seeking out local resources such as Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology. Some students actively sought out bird guides in the library and began researching questions that they were considering while birding with the binoculars.”

IPEI Red and Gold Grants are awards up to $500 for projects that strengthen and enrich learning in the Ithaca City School District.

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