Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sevierville Primary School Second Graders Discover Birds!

The Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society enjoyed a Discover Birds visit with Sevierville Primary School, in Sevierville, Tennessee, on April 12th, to present Discover Birds Activity Books to the school's second graders.
Thirteen classrooms representing approximately 215 students participated in the three-part program:  a slide presentation showing a variety of birds and nests; a bird treasure program showing bird-related items like nests, bird talons and feathers for up-close viewing; and bird walks giving the students opportunity to find and identify birds and view them through scopes and binoculars.   
Above, Oliver Lang shows students a ground nest located in the school yard and encourages them to think about ways to help protect the nest from trampling and mowing.
The program lasted from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 allowing time for classrooms to group together and rotate through each of the three sections of the program.  Above, Billie Cantwell, KTOS president, introduces a group of students to the variety of bird colors, sizes, beaks and feet, and eggs and nests with her slide presentation on birds. Below, three students examine the contents of owl pellets, one of the many items included in naturalist Paula Schneeberger's section on bird treasures. 
Below, several classrooms join in the bird walks.  KTOS members Oliver Lang and Chris Welsh help students divide into small groups and distribute bird guide sheets showing some of the birds they will likely find on their walks.  

Students checked their bird sheets to see which birds they already knew and tried to remember the names of new birds they might find.  Chris Welsh, below, coaches students on what to expect and encourages them to be his "bird spotters".  When they find a bird, Chris will try to get the bird in his scope so they each can take a turn looking through the scope.  A quick look allows the child to notice size, color, beak and tail shape, and then its time to let the next student take a look.  When the bird flies, the students spot the next bird they want to see.   
Birds were readily available in the Sevierville Primary School yard.  Below, a pair of Tree-swallows rest on top of a nest box erected at the school. The school's teachers have worked with scouts in the area to build and erect nest boxes and boxes are located at the edges of grassy areas around the school building.  Many of the nest boxes are up for their second year and are being investigated by Tree-swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Starlings looking for a cavity for nest building.  
Above, Tree Swallows sit on top of one of the nest boxes (viewed from the back).  The creek that runs beside the school is a great attraction for water birds like a chattering King Fisher, Great Blue Herons and a Mallard that was swimming in the current.  Other birds seen included American Robins, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, Mourning Doves and White-breasted Nuthatches.  Below, an Eastern Bluebird investigates a nest box.

Above Doug Schneeberger leads a group of students on a walk near the creek.  Below, Chris Welsh talks with another group of students about cavity nesting birds.  Students spotted a robin's nest in a shrub and were able to get good looks at a female robin incubating on the nest through a scope without disturbing her.

Below, Oliver Lang shows students the field guide that he carries in his pack while birding.  The field guide helps him identify the birds he sees.  He carries other things in his pack--water and snacks!  

Cowbirds were one of the more curious birds found perched in the trees giving leaders opportunity to talk about parasitism.  How does a bird that doesn't build a nest or use a cavity have a place to raise young?  By waiting for another bird to leave their nest and laying eggs in that bird's nest!  The nesting bird raises the cowbird young along with their own.
Back in the classroom Sarah Green, second grade teacher and recipient of the Tennessee Environmental Education Association Teacher of the Year award, passes out Discover Birds Activity Books to her students.
Billie Cantwell visits with a student below and discusses the birds on the back of the activity book's cover.
Each classroom teacher received a welcome packet developed by Billie Cantwell, including Discover Birds project information, a 2013 Wild Birds Unlimited calendar and newsletter, a Cornell poster of common feeder birds, Watchable Wildlife items, and a KTOS brochure.  Activity books were sponsored by KTOS club member contributions.

KTOS extends appreciation to Principal Harriet Berrier for welcoming us into her school, and to Sarah Green for coordinating our visit with the second graders at Sevierville Primary School.  

To see more of the birds that were seen and heard by students on their bird walks visit this link:  Tennessee Birds

Other links and resources:
To find out more about these birds and hear their songs visit Cornell's All About Birds and type in the name of the bird.
Sevierville Primary School
Knoxvile Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
Tennessee Ornithological Society
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