Vanessa Boone never was one for birdwatching. But last summer, a teachers’ conservation workshop sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources had her grabbing the nearest binoculars.
“Once I started, I thought I would love to take my students birdwatching,” said Boone, the Lower School design and engineering teacher at The Lovett School. “Our campus is really big on a chunk of land off the Chattahoochee River with a lot of green space where we could walk around and see a lot of different species.”
Boone went to school in the fall ready to have students learn at least three birds. “You start with a visual ID, then learn their calls,” she said.
Students spotted Eastern bluebirds, crows, American robins and song sparrows, to name a few.
“They were surprised at how many we could see,” Boone said. “I think they don’t often consider the number of species out there.”
Fifth-grader Susan Billings was one of those who admitted not paying attention to the local bird population.
“When I walk around campus, I don’t really look at nature and the birds, but once I started, I saw a lot of different kinds like hawks and bluebirds,” said the 11-year-old. “My dad is a big bird watcher, and now I watch with him. We have a bird feeder that I find myself glancing out at more than usual, and I recognize more birds.”
But Boone moved students beyond just knowing what was flying around the Buckhead campus: She wanted students to build houses for different types. She received $1,000 from the DNR to get the project going and had classes take backyard field trips accompanied by representatives from Georgia Audubon, a nonprofit committed to creating bird-friendly communities. The project also drew the attention of Cornell University’s ornithology lab.
“Cornell sent me a ton of resources, including an app that lets you take pix of birds or record chirping and identifies what birds are nearby,” said Boone.
Since January, students have been engrossed in the building process.
“We started out with my showing them how to use Tinkercad, an online 3D design program,” said Boone. “They’ve researched and read fiction and nonfiction texts, and created posters to decide which bird they’d focus on. It’s been amazing to see how they’ve taken a lot of the ownership. I just guide them and make sure fingers don’t get cut off.”
Students started with 1- to 2-inch models that could be adapted before the work began in earnest. Once the components were measured and cut, Boone invited family members, friends, parents and alumni to work on the assembly. The last stage will be the artistic touches.
“Each one will be a work of art,” said Boone, who hopes the houses will be finished by the end of the school year. “Then we want to get them up in a park near our school.”
Billings, who worked on a foot-tall house for Eastern bluebirds, likes the idea of the project extending beyond the classroom.
“It will be cool to add our birdhouses to nature,” she said. “Even though it was a school project, it’s fun that we can add it to a park and see birds come to it.”
Information about The Lovett School is online at lovett.org.
SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-744-3042.