Saturday, March 1, 2014

Discover Birds Visits Nature's Way Montessori School

February 28th, on a very cold, sunny morning, the KTOS Discover Birds volunteers presented the Discover Birds program to 47 students and their teachers at the Nature's Way Montessori School in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The program was presented in three parts with a bird slide show, bird treasure program and guided bird walks, with the students rotating through the sections in three groups.  Above, Billie Cantwell, President of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) introduces birds to the students with images of birds and stories about birds in her own yard.    
The two screech owls above live in Billie's yard during breeding season.  The female lays eggs in the owl box on the left.  The male stays with her perching near by to protect their nest.  Screech owls commonly roost in cavities, so Billie bought another owl box so he could roost in a cavity while guarding his nest!
Paula Schneeberger, below, talks with students about bird-related items she has collected in her treasure chest.  Many items, such as feathers, can be held by the students for a closer look.  Others, such as owl pellets, are encased in plastic so they can be passed around.  
Below, Paula holds up a feather and talks about how the individual feather parts or filaments can separate leaving gaps.  Each filament also has barbs that helps the filaments hold together.  Birds take care of their feathers by preening.  Paula compares preening to a zipper on a jacket.  Preening zips the filaments back together!

For the outdoor section, students and volunteers put on jackets, hats and gloves to participate in bird walks around the nature trails and grounds of Nature's Way Montessori School.
Above, Kelly Sturner talks with students as they take turns looking at a mourning dove through the birding telescope or "scope".  Below, Chis Welsh shows students a bird in his cell phone "app".  The program shows several images of the birds and also the sounds and songs of each species.

Above, Oliver Lang shows students how to "cup" their ears to help them hear bird sounds better.  One of the birds spotted were a pair of mourning doves in a pine near the fence.  When one of the birds dropped to the ground on the other side of the fence, the students moved very slowly and carefully, closer to the bird.
 One of the students reported back, "It's picking up sticks!"
The students got some good looks from close range because they were careful to be quiet and move slowly as they watched the bird.  One of the students commented, "I've never been that close to a bird before!"
Below, Oliver Lang shows students more information about a bird in his mobile bird field guide (phone app).
While spotting birds on their bird walks, students referred to their Pocket Naturalist Guides on Tennessee Birds donated to the Discover Birds Program by Waterford Press.  Students also found birds they were familiar with from their own yards, as well as, the birds they saw on their bird walks.
Mourning doves, robins and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were among the birds found by students

Students were encouraged to look for special characteristics as they viewed the bird through the scope. Features like the color of the eye and the beak help students remember the bird and recognize it again.
All of the students enjoyed carrying and referring to their Pocket Naturalist Guide on Tennessee Birds for reference and to get a another good look at the bird.  Below, students compare what they see on the guide and help each other locate the bird they are discussing.

At the end of the program the students and teachers were presented with complimentary Discover Birds Activity Books provided by KTOS.  It was a great morning of great birding!
A special thank you to Nature's Way and to Discover Birds volunteers, Billie Cantwell, Paula and Doug Schneeberger, Linda Denton, Kelly Sturner, Oliver Lang, and Chris Welsh for a great morning of fun with birds and learning!

For more information about the Discover Birds Program contact Billie Cantwell at To order printed activity books, contact Cyndi Routledge at To download and print the activity book, visit:  The Tennessee Ornithological Society--Educational Resources page.

Links and Resources:

Nature's Way Montessori School
Waterford Press Pocket Guides--Tennessee Birds
KTOS--Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Feather parts--filaments
Mourning Dove
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Tennessee Birds
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's free beginning birding app--Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Mobile Field Guides

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