Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WILD School Sites, Part Two

This is Part Two of John Windau's series on the development of a WILD School Site.

 Bird Houses and Feeders, Not Just for the Birds

Last month we introduced a series on WILD School Sites, or outdoor classrooms. WILD School Sites are locations that can be used by students, teachers, and the school community as places to learn about wildlife and the environment. The first thing to do when developing a site is to formulate a plan. You can contact your district WildlifeCommunication Specialist, who can walk you through the process to help ensure success.

But what type of project should you do?

No two sites are the same. So each site will consist of different projects. Available resources, such as time, money, space, and labor, will certainly play a role in what projects are chosen. Perhaps the easiest project, and one that can be done anywhere, is to install bird feeders and bird houses. Bird feeders and houses are relatively cheep, err I mean cheap, can be put up in a few minutes, and can be installed any time of the year. Bird feeders are also one of the quickest ways to attract wildlife to your facility. Because of this, they are a great first step while the rest of the site is still in the planning or developmental stages.

How do you use bird feeders and houses for education?

The number of lessons that can be done with bird feeders and bird houses is staggering. Lesson plans can easily be developed from early childhood all the way up through high school. Some examples include keeping track of the number of birds or species that visit the bird feeder, or tracking the number of birds or species through different seasons. Install multiple feeders, and fill them with different types of food. Determine what types of birds use the different feeders and analyze the different beak adaptations for the different food types.

To buy, or not to buy? That is the question.

Obviously, the quickest way to install both bird houses and feeders is to purchase them. There are numerous styles and sizes available to fit into almost any budget. There are a few key areas to pay attention to. First, what species of birds are you interested in attracting? Birds use different types of houses, eat different types of food, and prefer different types of feeders. Generally you will have better success trying to attract birds that already frequent your area. For an interactive guide about birds in Ohio and their habitats, visit the Division of Wildlife’s webpage at wildohio.com. The Division also has a great guide available on how to attract birds in Ohio.

Next is size. For bird feeders, there are several bird feeders on the market that are quite small and dainty. In order to keep your birds’ interest, it is important to keep the feeder filled. Although kids enjoy filling bird feeders, one that is too small may need filled too frequently to be practical. In contrast, when a feeder is too large, food can become wet and may begin to spoil.

Purchasing bird houses and feeders is not the only option, though. Many educators prefer to have their feeders and houses constructed, either by the students themselves, or in cooperation with local 4H clubs or scout troops. In fact, one great way to involve the whole school community is to have the shop class build the boxes and feeders. Plans for bird houses and feeders can be found throughout the internet, or on the Division of Wildlife’s webpage. Younger students can also construct feeders and houses for birds. There are several “kid friendly” designs available. Better yet, have students utilize recycled materials to construct bird houses or feeders for use at school or home. Houses and feeders can be constructed from margarine tubs, milk cartons, coffee cans, and even soda bottles. Plans are available from a variety of sources on the web.

A bird in hand…

Although most WILD School Sites contain multiple projects that can take years to develop from start to finish, birds feeders and houses offer an opportunity to start educating youth about Ohio’s wildlife right now. They are relatively inexpensive, easily obtained or constructed, and can be placed in virtually any location. The Division of Wildlife’s guide Attracting Birds in Ohio contains additional information on placement, maintenance, and care of your feeders and houses. For more information about this project or other WILD School Site projects, contact your district’s WildlifeCommunications Specialist.

Photos taken from the Ohio Division of Wildlife's online Photo Gallery at www.wildohio.com

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