As part of their recent unit on California raptors, Fourth Grade students investigated the impact of wind farms on birds’ ability to hunt, migrate, and survive.
“Over the course of three weeks, students learned about different California habitats, the species that live there, and how to better protect birds of prey,” said Fourth Grade Teacher Tyler Elliott. “Raptors are crucial to the diversity and sustainability of many ecosystems across the country. We want our students to understand humanity’s connection to other species and how we can preserve vital ecosystems, both locally and abroad.”
One exciting aspect of this unit was the classes’ collaboration with Wildlife Associates, a 120-acre animal sanctuary in Half Moon Bay. A team of wildlife specialists came to Sea Crest with live birds of prey and worked with students in small groups to help teach them about raptors, conservation, and wind turbines.
“I was so impressed with the Sea Crest Fourth Graders,” said Michele Durant, Programs Manager at Wildlife Associates. “They embraced the opportunity to help local wildlife and eagerly accepted the challenge of learning to think like biologists and engineers.”
Fourth Graders learned how hawks help manage prey populations to keep nature in balance, and they explored the challenges facing scientists as they work to maintain both wildlife and sustainable energy solutions.
Next, our students spent two weeks designing their own solutions to help wildlife and the wind power industry to better coexist. On the final day, representatives from Wildlife Associates returned to hear the presentations.
Students shared ideas such as…
- Placing wire cages over wind turbines to let in wind but keep out birds;
- Using sensors or lasers to detect birds before they get too close to a turbine, causing the turbine to stop spinning;
- Projecting images and sounds of predators to scare birds away from turbine blades.
“These students were not only highly engaged on an academic level, but their kindness and concern towards the birds clearly motivated them,” said Ms. Durant. “It was so rewarding to see their excitement about having a chance to share their presentations. They demonstrated their creativity and compassion as well as their comprehension of the facts and curriculum of this unit.”
“They have built a sense of empathy and understanding about how we coexist with our environment, and they are making connections to how our lessons relate to alternative energies,” said Mr. Elliott.
Since many of the raptors the classes studied are native to our area, students have already been able to apply what they learned to real-life situations.
“One day after school, as I was closing up my room, three students came flying down the hall yelling, ‘Mr. Elliott, Mr. Elliott, come look! There’s a red-tailed hawk outside!’ There was a line of about 25 kids along the perimeter of the field, staring at what looked like a big chicken in the middle of the grass. When I walked closer, I saw it was a beautiful male hawk standing talon-deep in a puddle, sipping and arranging feathers, looking at us as we looked at him. Suddenly, he took off with two flaps, talons out, to the top of a 50-foot tree. The Fourth Graders spent the afternoon teaching all of the other students on the field about red-tailed hawks. I know they will never forget this experience.”
Watch a video clip of the Fourth Graders’ presentations: