Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Home-schoolers Discover Birds at Halls Branch--Knox County Library!

Monday, October 5, 2015, a Discover Birds program was held for home schoolers at the Halls Branch, Knox County Library.  
KTOS members Doug Schneeberger, Billie Cantwell, Morton Massey and Merikay Waldvogel met with 13 home-schooled students and their parents who gathered at the library on beautiful clear day. 
The group ranged in age from 4 through 12.  Doug Schneeberger held them all in rapt attention as he showed them bird skeletons, feathers, and other interesting bird-related items that they could see at close range.  
After Doug's session, Merikay handed out binoculars to each student and demonstrated how to use them.  

The whole group then took a walk along the Halls Marsh Greenway.  Near the start, they had a wide view of the wetlands.  
A Northern Mockingbird was chattering away in a tree top and on the ground in the shadows, the students easily focused on an Eastern Towhee. 
Morton heard a Song Sparrow, but for the most part, the birds were quiet and the water was higher than normal.  The students used their binoculars to get closer looks at tadpoles in the puddles and to spot the beaver lodge. 
Finally, at the bridge, a Downy Woodpecker landed on a nearby tree and everyone was able to see details on the bird.  Morton pointed out that this bird was a female because it did not have a red patch on the back of its neck.
Below, Morton shows students a Downy Woodpecker on his phone bird app.  
  On the walk back, we heard Carolina Chickadees and got close-up looks of two crows on a wire.  
The checklist of birds found were submitted to Ebird.  It included:  Carolina Chickadee, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Downy Woodpecker, and American Crow.  

When asked what impressed him the most, Malaki (age 12) said seeing the Northern Mockinbird was cool, "I've never seen one before.”  Ginger (age 8) liked the Downy Woodpecker because she learned how to tell whether or not it was a girl.  Beth (age 5) liked the crows because she learned how smart they were.
Above, Merikay talks with students about what they enjoyed most about their bird walks.  Each child received a copy of the Discover Birds Activity Book from the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS).

A special thank you to Billie Cantwell for providing the photos in this post and to our Discover Birds volunteers for making this program possible!  A big thank you also to the home-school teachers and students who participated in the program and to Halls Branch Library for providing an excellent location!

Links and Resources:

Halls Branch--Knox County Library
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist
eBird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Tennessee Birds
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's free beginning birding app--Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Mobile Field Guides

Friday, October 2, 2015

Creative Learning Academy Students Discover Birds!

On October 1st, Discover Birds volunteers presented the Discover Birds Program to 30 home-schooled students from Creative Learning Academy at the Dean Hill Recreation Center in West Knoxville. 
Above, Discover Birds volunteer Jerry Ledbetter with Creative Academy students.

KTOS members Morton Massey, Doug Schneeberger, Jerry Ledbetter and Merikay Waldvogel presented the program to students from pre-kindergarden to 5th grade on an overcast day.  
The students were divided into three age groups and cycled through the three parts of the program:  a bird slide show, a bird walk, and a hands-on bird show-and-tell activity.  
While Morton showed a slide show about birds inside to one group, Jerry and Merikay gave binoculars to another group of students and demonstrated how to use them.  
Inside, Doug had many bird-related items to show the students, including feathers, bones and skulls that students could pick up and examine closely.
All the students, no matter what age, had lots of questions.  Some had hung bird feeders fashioned from plastic drink bottles and spoons the week before.  
The checklist of birds found included: Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Chimney Swift and Great Blue Heron. We heard a Carolina Wren.  

The best look occurred when the older students climbed to the top of a piece of playground equipment. With their binoculars on their eyes, a Great Blue Heron flew slowly and gracefully by.  
Asked what impressed him the most, Jackson, a 5th grader, said, “I’m impressed with these binoculars. I’m going to use my money and buy some.  I’d go over to the Cove [in Farragut] and look at birds there.”  
Carpenter, who kept spotting birds no one else had seen, also liked the binoculars, and said it was the Great Blue Heron that impressed him the most.
The group's sponsor, Clare Dattilo, and other parents present were impressed with the Discover Birds program activities. Several were birdwatchers themselves.  Each of the students were given a Discover Birds Activity book to take home, presented by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and the Discover Birds Program.
Creative Learning Academy meets twice a week at the Dean Hill Recreation Center.  They take advantage of the outdoor environment to study nature, including trees, butterflies, and birds.

A big thank you to our Discover Birds volunteers, and to Merikay Waldvogel for sharing her photographs and details about this event!

Links and Resources:

Creative Learning Academy website
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist
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