Adopt-a-School Project: Union County High School

January 15th – May 15th, 2014
Maynardville, TN

At Union County High School in Maynardville, Tennessee, the Biology II class has much in store for the spring semester! Their teacher, Aileen Beeler, is using the Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant to instill awareness of the birds in the community into her students and help them understand how birds fit into the local food web, as well as how they can attract birds to their homes.

The Biology II class is planting bird-friendly plants, setting up feeders, and putting up a bird bath in an area delimited by railroad ties. Students have sketched out the placement of all the plants, feeders, and the bird bath, and are now planting the area with the help of donations from local businesses. The process of keeping it maintained and weed-free will come from all the biology classes. Once the garden is ready, students will have a diary by the window with a bird identification book so that they can log the birds they see, and every week as a class they’ll inspect the area outdoors. By the end of the semester, they’ll take all their data and find the most common birds, the plants they were attracted to, and which types of food in the feeders were eaten the most and by which species.

Ecology is a big part of their curriculum, and students will be witnessing first-hand how the local food web, involving local birds and the foods they eat, works outside their classroom window. They will also place a thermometer and rain gauge in the area to see how the environment changes throughout the semester and record how these changes affect the habits of the birds.

On a particular event day, administrators and students will meet to observe and record what is in the “bird park.” During this time, students can explain the bird habitat to adults and show what they have learned through their observations.

Many of the students are artistically gifted and can draw or sketch the birds they see, so Aileen thinks that as part of the semester long project of taking down data, the students will make a story book for the elementary school down the road that uses facts about the birds in their area, woven into a fictional story involving a local bird species of their choosing (there’s a picture of some of this work in the slideshow below). They’ll illustrate the book and deliver copies of it to the lower grades to help them learn about neighborhood birds.

The Union County High School science department is very excited about the prospect of transforming this area into a bird habitat, and we can’t wait to see how the project develops further! You can read the Union County newspaper’s story on the garden project here (page 8).

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