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Posted June 10, 2019
Students in Sarah Lee’s third-grade class at Parkview Elementary in Plymouth spotted or heard 28 different bird species on, over and from school grounds this spring.
The students met as the Parkview Bird Club on Tuesdays from late April to late May. John Roehre, Parkview head custodian and an avid birder, shares his hobby as the club’s advisor.
Shelly Taylor, Parkview library media specialist, loaded a bird guide called Merlin from The Cornell Lab onto iPads, which allows students to look up what they just saw and/or heard. Students also refer to a website called Mesmerizing Migration Map, which shows 118 species on yearly migration routes from South America through North America.
The club walks the perimeter of the school grounds, which has 12 acres and a great mix of habitats, from neighboring houses with wooded lots and bird feeders to a corner nature center.
“Plymouth is lucky to have a river running through it,” Mr. Roehre said during a presentation to the Board of Education. “That brings in a lot of birds. We’re seeing more eagles and osprey now.”
This year’s class experienced some of the coolest temperatures in club history, plus the birdwatching started just as demolition work began at Parkview.
But none of that dampened the students’ enthusiasm. After hearing a cardinal, one student exclaimed, “I love hearing that sound in the morning – it just makes my whole day!”
Initially, students are most taken with common birds such as mourning doves and northern cardinals, but as the weeks go by Mr. Roehre says he's always impressed by how many more they are able to identify.
The club also hosted a World Migratory Bird Day observance on May 29, at which Plymouth Mayor Don Pohlman read a resolution approved by the Common Council.
Mr. Roehre has been offering the Bird Club for 13 years. This year he received a grant from the Plymouth Education Foundation, which allowed him to purchase seven kid-sized binoculars so each group could have their own, and also a few additional birding items to give away. Enzo Backhaus received a Wisconsin Bird Guide, three students received Birds of North America playing cards, and all students received a “Little Birds” stained-glass coloring book and a summary of all birds observed.
“I am very appreciative of the district and foundation support to continue this fun and wonderful relationship-building activity,” he said. “The elementary level kids’ binoculars are designed to be easy to handle; I was impressed by how quickly they learned to use them properly. Thank you very much to the PEF!”
Students appreciated the opportunity as well. “Thank you for taking me birdwatching,” one wrote. “I learned new things. P.S. Using the binoculars was super cool.”
Mr. Roehre hopes participants leave with an appreciation for the diversity of bird life in the city and on such a relatively small parcel of land.
“The third grade is a wonderful group to bird with,” he added. “They pay attention and want to know what they are hearing and seeing. I like that they are tuned into nature. Hopefully, the club will inspire them to be careful with our fragile planet, knowing such a variety of life depends on them.”
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