The Shorebird Sister Schools Program (SSSP) is a science–based environmental education program dedicated to engage participants in shorebirds and their conservation. This Monday and Tuesday, I started my internship shadowing Julia and Renee (program coordinator and specialist) at work with students in fifth grade at Philomath Elementary School. The program is on its third lesson, out five, culminating in a field trip to an estuary in Newport. Each classroom lesson prepares the students for what they will see on their field trip.
The students at Philomath are very eager to learn and excited about participating in the activities. Lesson three was focused on migration; the requirements and challenges shorebirds face during migration, the differences between shorebird migration habitats, the possible habitat threats and ways we can improve them, and the different behaviors shorebirds exhibit. The most exciting activity to watch was “Migration Headache” which simulated real-life scenarios that could occur to the breeding, stopover, or non- breeding habitats while students migrated from one habitat to the other. This game was a bit like magical chairs allowing only a certain number of students at each habitat. It was great to see the enthusiasm when students would make it successfully to a habitat and how concerned they would get if an oil spill or inadequate environmental conditions affected their habitats.
It is wonderful to see how much each class has learned so far and how quickly they pick up the new material. The teachers too are enthused by the activities, enjoying watching their students’ involvement. Students are constantly asking questions, such as “ What will be the biggest shorebird we will see on field trip? , “What will be the smallest?”, and “ What is the biggest shorebird ever!?”. These questions show their excitement for upcoming classes and that the program is doing a good job reaching out. Almost every kid was shocked by the fact that shorebirds need to double their weight to have enough energy to migrate successfully and it is this kind of cool factoids that students will take home and share with their parents and friends which allows for the material to be taken outside of the classroom. I am very excited to continue going to classes with the SSSP and begin facilitating lessons.