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Submitted By

Tracey Robinson

Akron, OH, United States


Habitat Helpers

Creating a Bird Habitat at an Urban School

The last thing on anyone’s mind in Akron Ohio in the winter months is gardening. However, “peace” themes are prevalent beginning with Christmas in December to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and concluding with Valentine’s Day in February. The winter months are when students at Schumacher Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio began to think of “peace” themes to paint onto posts that bird houses will be perched atop of in our bird habitat funded with our Birdsleuth Grant. They brainstormed ideas that were meaningful to them, and during art class they collaborated with their peers to create posts that are purposeful as bird houses as well as encouraging peace in the community; beautiful garden art, in an urban community that has experienced gun and domestic family violence. After the bird houses and posts are completed with the final touches and quotes, the posts will be installed in the habitat in September 2017. While students in grade 6 were collaborating on the bird house peace poles. Twelve members of the newly formed student group (grades 3-5) the Wildlife Rangers, met, discussed and planned for the needs of the birds, possible problems that may arise, and plant selections for the bird habitat location. They met after school monthly on the last Friday of each month through the winter to address concerns and propose solutions: two of the major concerns were: 1. Bird predators and squirrels. 2. Vandalism of the garden plants and peace posts. Several solutions were discussed an the group agreed to build school engagement in the bird habitat through the Birdsleuth curriculum materials would encourage students to take care of and respect the birds and the habitat. The Rangers will continue to seek ways to protect the birds from predators that will also not cause harm to any other wildlife. Natural barriers, such as logs and snags will be placed in the habitat that will provide more shelter for the birds. The Rangers will seek community donations through the school newspaper for bird loving perennials and unwanted logs and natural materials. In May 2017, students in the Rangers, our service learning group, the Cadre, and my kindergarten class, cleared the area for planting in an existing
water retention basin, and planted the following bird loving plants: coreopsis, bee balm, asters, viburnum, holly, cardinal flower, and chokeberry shrubs. On planting day, students observed two very large birds that were flying overhead, and landing on the roof of a house across from the school. There was great discussion about whether the birds were bald eagles or vultures; they were vultures students later determined after further investigation. The questions and comments that were made that day, as well as the fact that the students researched on their own to find out the species of birds that they saw, confirmed to me that our kids will be totally engaged and have many years of learning opportunities in the habitat. This encourages me to seek other grants to seek funding to add more plants, much needed binoculars, and water sources for the birds. Through the Birdsleuth Grant, we were able to receive curriculum materials for grades K-6. We have the following curriculum: Habitat Connections (grade 3), Most Wanted Birds (grade 4) ,Nature Detectives (grade 5-6), Discover Birds Kits (grades K-2), Bird Spy Bingo Cards (grades K-1) and Dry Erase Scavenger Cards (grades K-1). Instead of having teacher professional development in the use of the materials, grade level representatives from the Wildlife Rangers will present the materials and conduct workshops for the teachers and students regarding the use of the curriculum, and to answer questions about the habitat. The Rangers will provide tours of the habitat upon it’s completion, with the final plantings of a service berry tree, other shrubs, perennials, and the installation of the four peace pole bird houses. The use of inquiry based learning will begin and students, teachers, and the community will enjoy the beauty of the bird habitat garden.

Westside Leader newspaper article.

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