When Destin Middle School Science Teacher Dawn Pack sought volunteers to teach her gifted 5th graders about ornithology, Margaret Benner and Gary Parsons of the local Choctawhatchee Audubon Chapter stepped up to the plate.
Pack was inspired to do an ornithology project by her former principal, Dr. Diane Kelley and encouraged by Principal Charlie Marello, who assisted in writing a grant request that included funding for a bird cam. The new cam overlooks an osprey nest above the school’s stadium lights. Also included in the grant were binoculars for every student and teaching aids.
Parsons and Benner put together a series of discussion sessions/lunch time field trips for 22 students. Benner, a retired 5th grade teacher, based the lesson plans on the state science standards. A great blue heron rookery adjacent to the school grounds and the osprey nest proved to be great attractions.
Students were taught how to collect and analyze data, use binoculars, basic taxonomy and clues to bird identification using field guides and smart phone apps. To date, more than two dozen species of birds have been identified on school grounds. Using a spotting scope, students were able to observe great blue herons rearing chicks at three of their nests at the rookery.
The Choctawhatchee Audubon Society serves Okaloosa and Walton Counties by offering monthly programs at NWFSC, bird counts and local field trips to the public. Volunteers are needed to support chapter activities. For additional information, contact Chapter President Walt Spence at 582-7064.