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Submitted By

Norman Cowie

Maplewood, NJ, United States

Award Winning Entry: Celestron Binocular Winner

Our avian friends

I am an educator leading a nature club at my son's elementary school, Jefferson Elementary. I am currently working with fifteen 3rd graders, and plan to expand to 4th grade in the fall. We have spent quite a bit of time studying and feeding birds this year, and go out into the field every week, rain or snow. In addition to visual and aural identification (using sound files from the amazing Cornell bird ID app), we have also embarked on habitat preservation and restoration and conducted numerous cleanups. Our school is fortunate to border a stream that flows year round and a grassy field with mature deciduous trees, so there is quite a bit of bird diversity right outside the school. The spring migration is underway, and there are many new species in the tall oaks. Binoculars would allow our kids to penetrate the canopy and aid in bird identification year round.

The club meets in our outdoor classroom, a courtyard with seating, plantings, feeders and trees, then we go out across campus as true citizen scientists. We study animal tracks and seed pods in the winter, identify leaves and trees, and turn over stones looking for invertebrates. We also keep our eyes and ears peeled for any bird activity. Yesterday, the children found two severed pigeon wings and became nature detectives as they sought to understand what had happened. Next week, we will all walk the stream to pick up trash and look for fish and aquatic insects.

Some years ago, our school site was identified as a "certified wild school site." I am attempting to rekindle the enthusiasm that led to that designation, and binoculars would be a wonderful tool for the children to study and enjoy the many birds that frequent our leafy community.

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