Sharing the joy of birds since 1971

Home Schoolers Having Fun, Spring 2018

Youth Outreach Committee Activities Engage Children

Last spring our society created a new committee, Youth Outreach, chaired by our board member Lee Vines. Lee, a retired biology teacher from the College of Southern Maryland, decided to steer his committee toward sharing his love of teaching, science, and nature to home-schooled children in our area.

I have been fortunate to help Lee in his interest and passion. His committee’s strategic plan focused this year on offering nature classes. Five different topics have been chosen, several of them drawing on the National Audubon Society’s Audubon Adventure Environmental Education curriculum.

In April 2018 we held two classes – Give a Hoot about Owls on April 20th and Birds on the Move, April 27th. Boy, did we have fun with very remarkable groups! We advertised our first two classes via an internet group for local home schoolers, and through a contact for a Christian home school group. We ended up with a large waiting list for both classes! We shortly realized that we likely had a great idea and helped fill a void.

Both classes were offered at a wonderful venue, Thomas Stone National Historic Site, in Port Tobacco, MD. They have a lovely visitor’s center and were excited to partner with SMAS. They could not have been more accommodating!

Fourteen students attended our Give a Hoot about Owls class. We gave a presentation about the owls of North America, with a focus on the owls of Southern Maryland. To a PowerPoint show we added eight videos, which all the kids said made the lecture a lot more fun and interesting. After the 45-minute presentation we then had more fun (probably the most fun for them!), dissecting owl pellets. Offered to children in 1st through 6th grades, the class ultimately taught children ranging in age from 7 to 14, some of them traveling from as far away as Baltimore and Largo, MD. These kids were very engaged. We received some remarkable emails from students and moms about how much they enjoyed the class and that they look forward to joining us for more events.

Group photo on left was taken during the Owl class. The other two pictures are from the Bird Migration class!

The second class, on April 27th also met at Thomas Stone National Historic Site. This was a more advanced class on bird migration – titled Birds on the Move. We pitched it to students in 3rd through 8th grades. 16 students, ranging in age from 7 to 12, traveled to the class from Largo and Lexington Park. The 45-minute lecture shared a lot of information about birds, flyways, how birds navigate, and the threats and challenges that migrating birds face. That PowerPoint presentation, too, had some fun videos. We ended the lesson with Birding 101 pointers, including how to use a field guide and binoculars. We then set out on a one-hour bird walk. Such lucky new birders! They got fantastic views of a Great Crested Flycatcher, Chipping Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebirds, and Yellow-rumped Wabler, to name a few. We also heard the Ovenbird; one very smart student remarked, after seeing a picture of an Ovenbird, that it reminded him of a Wood Thrush! They also got a very long look at and heard the song of an accommodating male Summer Tanager, which prompted a discussion of sexual dimorphism too! Total species count was 23.

These two classes were thoroughly enjoyable for us and the students. In late summer and early fall, we will offer three more classes – The Buzz about Native Bees, Plants Are for the  Birds!, and finally, Lee’s great  passion, Nature Journaling.

This opportunity would not have been possible without a donation from a local foundation. We received funds for new binoculars, field guides, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Birding 101 folding pocket guides, blank nature journals, and Audubon Adventure educational materials. Huge thanks! You know who you are!

Much love …

Lynne Wheeler, SMAS President