"I didn't even get cold because it was SO COOL!" reported one of our second-grade friends who spent a night owling at Blandford Nature Center last week. And all the other second-grade heads bobbed in agreement; the second-graders were so engrossed in their owling adventure that they didn't even notice the cold! We posted a number of pictures on Facebook about this and you can view our album here.
Both second-grade classes met up in the dark at Blandford Nature Center for their owling adventure. We spent some time with Mrs. Staal, Blandford's Environmental Education Consultant (and WSCS parent) learning about and meeting some owls.
We learned that owl feathers are fluted so they can soar silently through the air, and compared them to turkey vulture feathers, which have stiffer edges for strength - a visual reminder that God makes animals with exactly what they need to survive in the natural world! We learned about their talons and how they use them to catch prey, and we saw owl pellets and learned about how owls eat their prey whole and then vomit back up for and bones and the like. Did you know that their ears are surrounded by feathers, and one is higher than the other? That helps them hear better!
One brave second-grader coaxed into getting his picture taken next to an owl noted that he was "only scared for second" to be that close to it!
We then headed outdoors to look and listen for owls! We went owling at night because, as we learned, owls are nocturnal. As mating season for owl species approaches, we're also more likely to hear their eerie calls. Later in the month we should not go owling because we do not want to interfere with their nesting behavior.
"We went deep into the woods!" recalled a second-grader about our trek that night! Off in the distance we heard the barred owl. Named for the stripes or bars on their buff-colored undersides, it was easily identified with its sound like "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?"
Walking through the dark night, the second-graders recalled having to be "quiet and brave!"
Blandford also has a resident female great horned owl named Katherine. Her mate still visits and watches over her. So we made the sound of the call (and you can listen to that call on Instagram @wscsgr) and waited, and we made the call again...then the loud, low call of the male great horned echoed through the Beech Maple forest! It sounded like a melancholy "hoo-hoo hoooo, hoo, hoo." And then we saw it fly overhead!
What was especially exciting as their teachers was to see the second-graders make connections while on our outdoor adventure to what we've been studying in our classroom. The students have been searching for metaphors and similes within the text of the book Owl Moon, and we saw them connect back to our literacy lessons while owling. "The snow looks as white as cereal in a cereal bowl" - a metaphor used on purpose!
They also spent time graphing the sizes of different types of owls and researching online the different types of owls. As a result of those learning experiences and their owling adventure, the students will put their learning and experiences to good use. At school the next day they wrote their own personal persuasive paragraph, trying to convince their parents to take them owling!
Outdoor education literally means we teach and learn outdoors - but it's more than that. It also means that outdoor elements and themes are brought indoors and shape students' learning about math and social studies and literature too. And that's exactly what our owling adventure was!