BirdSleuth Action Map

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Submitted By

Elizabeth Boylan

Elmira, NY, United States


I was so excited to receive the BirdSleuth Garden Grant from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Our school courtyard garden has been in desperate need of renovation work. The grant was written to get our 7th grade students interested in the outdoors, gardening and birds. The specific projects targeted with the grant money was the construction of a keyhole garden- a raised bed garden that is designed to retain water and feed itself through a central compost bin, renovate a garden pond, grow vegetables and flowers and construct various bird feeders and bird feeder station.

The BirdSleuth grant provided enriching hands-on, engaging learning opportunities for my students. We started with the Habitat Connections curriculum with all 110 of my students. My students especially liked the migration challenge and researching native birds in our area. They made colorful and informative posters on their birds that were displayed around the school. Students commented on how surprised they were to learn baby birds go from hatching to fledging in as little as two weeks! And also were surprised to learn that there are many hazards to birds, including glass windows which birds can’t see. Students assessed the courtyard area for the needs of birds. They then researched different types of bird feeders and built feeders out of recycled materials. They made apple shaped feeders out of soda bottles and feeders made out of metal cans.

We had two community work days where parents, students, staff and other community members worked in the courtyard. Work included weeding, cleaning up paver pathways, cleaning out the old pond and constructing the keyhole garden. It was a huge success! The keyhole garden was completed and a huge dent was made in cleaning up the courtyard area.

After Memorial Day the keyhole garden and other areas of the courtyard were planted with flowers and vegetables that the students grew in our greenhouse. I worked with a smaller group of 24 students afterschool to learn about plants and how to grow them from seed. They also learned how to grow plants from cuttings as well. The keyhole garden was planted with carrots, radishes, two types of lettuce, red peppers, onions, oregano, parsley, thyme, basil and dill.
Thanks to the Alaska fertilizer, the plants are growing fast. Not everyone has a large enough yard to make a garden, so students also learned container gardening. Planted in containers were cherry tomatoes, basil, dill, and parsley, flowering vines- cardinal flower, cypress vine, morning glories, moon flower and hyacinth beans that are growing a student made trellises, marigolds, daisies, sunflowers, bee balm, millet, and zinnias. All of these plants students grew from seed!

The garden has been a huge success! It has created a lot of excitement in our school. There are now a lot of birds frequenting the feeders and nesting in bird houses and bushes. Staff and students are using the area as a reading area. Administration has also learned the importance of maintenance of this area.

Next year, the garden pond will get a new liner and pumping system, we will install an outdoor camera to get pictures of birds and will maintain the bird feeders and gardens. With out this grant, non of this would have been accomplished. Thank you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Alaska Fertilizer!


Habitat Helpers

Courtyard Garden Project

Students posing next to the keyhole garden and bird feeder station.

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