Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hawk Ridge Education - Season Memories

The season is winding down.  This is our last week of education programs with six private programs left.  By the end of the week, we will have given 75 private programs and 8 weekends of public programs.  We will have taught many people through our beginning hawk-watching program, Eyes on the Skies.  Our naturalists and volunteers on the road will have greeted and talked with countless visitors.  Clinton, our count interpreter, will have described field marks and behaviors as many birds flew over.
Clinton & Caitlin teaching at Hawk Ridge (J Long)

It's always a bit of a relief to be close to the end, after a busy fall season with much to do and little time.  I can start letting go of my eagle-eye attention to scheduling details and scholarship funds.  I can breathe a little slower and laugh a little lighter.  This is when I have time to pull out my little piece of paper with my "moments to remember" on it.

Here are a few of my favorites from this season:

I was teaching about why raptors migrate and helping the students discover that it is because their food/prey disappears.  So, I ask the 5th graders:  "What happens to snakes that Broad-winged Hawks eat?  Where do snakes go in the winter?"  One enthusiastic student waved her hand and excitedly and said, "Texas!" The teacher and I looked at each other and smiled through our stifled laughter. The student also laughed and shook her head as she figured out  that she misunderstood the question. All I could picture were all these snakes slithering along the roads heading for Texas.  When stuff like this happens, it provides a good learning opportunity and a memorable teaching moment.

We have talons that we show to the students.  They love this part.  I opened the box during one class and started pulling the talons out.  "Are they dead?", asked one incredulous young man.  That was another one that almost had me going.  "Well, yes, these talons are dead."

I received a phone call one afternoon.  A young person was on the other end who sounded just like my daughter.  The young person didn't identify themselves and I was pretty confused when he/she started talking about projects and Prairie Falcon, when I thought it was my daughter wondering about staying after school or some such thing.  Finally, I asked.  It was a young man - a student calling to find out if Prairie Falcons ever fly over Hawk Ridge.  "It is a rare occurrence, but yes, they do sometimes fly over Hawk Ridge."  He responded, "OH, THANK GOODNESS!"  It turns out that the students in his class were all doing reports on birds that flew past Hawk Ridge and the teacher thought that this student better confirm his bird.  He told me that his class was coming for a program at Hawk Ridge that week, and he asked, "Are you going to be there?"  "Yes, I'll be there.  See you on Wednesday."  That phone call made my day.

Naturalist, Matti, gave me a good one.  Short and sweet...  "I didn't know birds could be so cool!"

That's what we like to hear.

We're all tired by the end of the season.  It is a short and intense teaching season filled with many good birding days and lots of visitors and school groups. There are also slow bird days and days that include rescheduling for weather and keeping track of a multitude of details.  But the moments, experiences, and learning that takes place make the exhaustion worth it.

One more week.  I'll savor it.

Hawk Ridge Education Director, Gail, with Sharp-shinned Hawk (HR staff)
Gail Johnejack
Education Director

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