Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Great Backyard Bird Count With Russ Schipper!

Pointing out the Rock Pigeon on the roof
Russ answering questions in the field
On Monday, February 19th, my class had the good fortune of having Russ Schipper take us birding for the Great Backyard Bird Count, through Cornell University.  We walked, looked and listened on the school grounds for signs of birds.  It's pretty amazing the number of birds you can hear when you are quiet and listening for them!  Russ is an avid birder and educator of all things bird related.  He is a leader in the Kalamazoo Audubon Society, no doubt sharing his knowledge and love of birds with its members as well as the young students he teaches.  This has become an annual tradition with Russ and I (every year for the past 6 years) and it is an honor be a part of it.  Each year, it is a new adventure.  This year was very wet (we had just had a huge snow melt) and so we kept to paved surfaces.  The forecast called for rain but thankfully the rain held off.  We spotted and recorded lots of birds in our fifty minutes outside.  We sent our results into the Cornell site after we reviewed our findings in the classroom.  (If you go to:  you can see our findings along with millions of others.)

Russ comes to North Shore Elementary every fall and gives a presentation to each classroom on birds (4th graders) and owls (5th graders).  He is a gift to our school and to the many other schools that he visits.  He has actually visited hundreds of classrooms and never tires of a student or a question.  Russ has spread this love of birds to thousands of people both young and old.

All of Russ' work educating us on birds is really rather incredible, but he shares more than his bird knowledge with us-- he shares a model of good living.  We have a lot of programs trying to tell students how live . . . how to be kind or how to do the right thing or how to treat people right. . . Here's what I think. . . It's people like Russ that show us how to live.  And it is people like Russ that change the world for the better. . . one child, one bird, one teacher at a time.   Russ exemplifies  the notion that no question is too small, no child is unimportant and that everyone has a place and can learn.  And he exemplifies the art of generosity, both with time and birdseed (I have a huge stash of sunflower seeds from him for our schoolyard birdfeeders).   Many years ago a wonderful mentor of mine (Marianne Hueston) told me, "You teach who you are."  As a seasoned (some might even say old) teacher, I have learned over and over again that this is true and very wise.  If we genuinely want to teach children curiosity, kindness and generosity we need to model those traits.  Teaching doesn't happen from talking (or testing) it happens from being.  A huge thank you to Russ for his many teaching gifts!  I'm looking forward to next year!

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