LONG, J.A.*; HORTON, B.M.; Univ. of Maine, Orono; Univ. of Maine, Orono: Bringing Ornithology to K-12 Classrooms

Education is vital to the success of bird conservation efforts. A National Science Foundation sponsored program at the University of Maine helps meet this need. This program places outstanding graduate students in local K-12 classrooms to enhance science education and awareness by providing expertise, equipment, activities, and role models that are otherwise unavailable. Although the program enhances learning in many areas of science, here we present examples of ways to foster an appreciation of nature through lessons in ornithology. We exposed students to ornithology and avian diversity through a variety of hands-on activities demonstrating beak adaptation, owl pellet composition, feather microscopy, field identification, mist-netting, banding, and migration. Seventy-five students in Maine conducted real science by participating in Project FeederWatch. These students identified and recorded the number and species of birds visiting their feeders throughout winter. Their data were sent to Cornell to help ornithologists detect and explain gradual changes in winter bird populations and distribution. These students also tested their own hypotheses about seed preferences. We believe that these hands-on activities in ornithology are great tools for enhancing science education in K-12 classrooms and instilling a lifelong appreciation for bird conservation.