Wrightsville Beach Elementary students learn ‘wonders of birds’

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By Taylor Doss, Intern

A cluster of Wrightsville Beach Elementary School students on Friday stood at the ready, armed with tweezers and enthusiasm, prepared to get a first-hand look at how the owl lives. The students were dissecting owl pellets, the feather remains of past meals, and getting a window into the bird of prey’s diet.

As the pellets were torn apart there was a gasp of excitement at what was found. The student dissecting the pellet smiled with pride and showed her find to those gathered around.

“I’ve never seen a skull in that condition, with its teeth still intact,” said program director Nancy Buckingham.

The owl pellet dissection was one of seven stations giving students a look into the science and study of birds, all part of the Cape Fear Audubon Society’s program Discover the Wonders of Birds program. Volunteer educators ran the learning stations, giving each fourth grader the school an opportunity to become active learners.

Many of the educators running the stations are volunteers, some are current or retired teachers, but no particular background is required, the necessary training is provided for the volunteers, said Nancy Buckingham, the program chair.

Catherine Nesbit, head of the program, spent her time at the event actively teaching children at one of the interactive stations. Nesbit used eggs and nests to engage the children with knowledge about birds and their nesting habits.

Owen, a WBS fourth grader, was inspired to help birds in the future, explaining that one way he could help birds is by keeping dogs out of bird’s nests on the beach.

“Discover the Wonders of Birds aligns with the fourth-grade curriculum set by the state,” Buckingham said. “The children benefit from the hands-on involvement they get here.

Margaret Martin, a teacher and participant in the event, said she always attempts to get her kids involved while teaching, and this type of interactive environment is her ideal learning setting.

A 12-foot-wide banner stretches across the wall behind one station, with an outline of an Albatross illustrating its massive wingspan. Children stand with their arms spread wide and linked to each other hand to hand to get a better idea of the Albatross’s size.

One station is devoted to teaching kids about some of bird’s basic needs like, food, shelter, and habitat. The educator relates the needs of birds to those of the students, he educator goes on to stress the importance of conserving the animal’s habitats.

“Birds are a lot like people, we all need the same stuff,” fourth grader John Luca said. “The whole thing was cool, except the smell of the owl pellets.”

WBS student Noah said his family already take walks on the beach and pick up trash to improve the environment, and now he is even more proud of his efforts because he learned that cleaning the beaches benefits birds as well. His favorite bird is the Red Knot, a medium-sized shorebird. Noah said he wanted to learn even more about birds so he can do more to help them.

The migration station is taught in two different parts. First, the children get the definition of migration, which is moving from one region to another, and why it is necessary, to follow food. To illustrate the point, the students get their hands on an inflatable globe, almost as large as them. They use a strand of yarn to run from South America to North America showing the migratory route. Then the strand to is measured the students figure out the miles.

WBS student Maggie added up the mileage in her head and shyly gave the correct answer: “It flies over 18,000 miles.”

To further illustrate the process of migration, the children move to a game board with a map printed on it. They roll dice to get their bird to its migratory destination, while learning about the obstacles the birds face. Discover the Wonders of Birds will continue in New Hanover County schools, and periodically host public events, to continue spreading knowledge, Buckingham said.

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