Stu­dents’ study of bald ea­gles capped off with real thing

J.C. Parks class gets close up view af­ter watch­ing Ea­gleCam

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Stephanie Hill’s third grade class has been study­ing ea­gles since Jan­uary through the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Live Bald Ea­gle Cam. On Mon­day, they re­ceived a visit from a live bald ea­gle.

Nat­u­ral­ist Michael Cal­la­han of the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter said he learned of the J.C. Parks El­e­men­tary School stu­dents’ in­ter­est in bald ea­gles, and on

Mon­day, brought a 4-year-old bald ea­gle from the ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

“They started this project back in Jan­uary, and they got so ex­cited about bald ea­gles and the nestlings, and they’ve been want­ing to see an ea­gle live and in per­son,” Cal­la­han said.

The bald ea­gle, who is un­named, is a lit­tle over 4 years old. He came to the sanc­tu­ary al­most four years ago from a wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter af­ter it was dis­cov­ered the fledgeling was blind in one eye, Cal­la­han said.

“They don’t re­ally know if he hatched that way, or if he got in­jured in the nest, maybe from a stick, or if it hap­pened while fight­ing with his sib­lings for food. We don’t know,” Cal­la­han said.

The bald ea­gle sat on Cal­la­han’s gloved hand as he an­swered ques­tions from the stu­dents, in­clud­ing ques­tions on how big they get, their wing­span and the feed­ing habits of bald ea­gles.

Bald ea­gles were once on the en­dan­gered species list, due to ex­ces­sive use of pes­ti­cides, but af­ter the ban­ning of DDT in the 1970s the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion of bald ea­gles has re­bounded. They are not un­com­mon around South­ern Mary­land wa­ter­ways, Cal­la­han said.

“When they stopped us­ing that pes­ti­cide, more of their ba­bies were able to hatch,” Cal­la­han said.

Since Jan­uary, Hill’s stu­dents had been study­ing the DCEa­gleCam, a live stream­ing video feed of the nest of a mated pair of bald ea­gles, named “Mr. Pres­i­dent” and “First Lady.”

The duo nested amongst the Aza­lea Col­lec­tion at the U.S. Na­tional Ar­bore­tum and in Fe­bru­ary, “First Lady” laid two eggs.

“I’d par­tic­i­pate in the chats that they were hav­ing online about the bald ea­gles in the evenings, and then I would bring that in­for­ma­tion to my stu­dents to dis­cuss it with the kids the next day,” Hill said.

The eggs hatched, and the two chicks were named “Free­dom” and “Lib­erty.” Stu­dents stud­ied the two hatch­lings as they grew.

“As the ea­gles got older, we would talk about what their next mile­stone was. Such as when they were start­ing to ex­er­cise their wings, then they would stretch their wings, and then they ac­tu­ally fledged, so we got to walk through their de­vel­op­ment,” Hill said.

Hill said watch­ing the hatch­lings and their par­ents was a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her stu­dents — even if some of the lessons were a bit bloody, such as when the par­ents brought a squir­rel to feed the hatch­lings.

“We used it as an op­por­tu­nity to talk about the life cy­cle, the food chain, and that the ea­gles see it as food, not a cute lit­tle squir­rel,” Hill said.

Last week, “Lib­erty” and “Free­dom” left the nest.

“I was happy the stu­dents got to see them fledge be­fore school was over,” Hill said.

Third grader Ha­ley Free­man, 9, said the best part was watch­ing the ea­glets leave the nest.

“I thought that was re­ally cool. That was once in a life­time you get to see that,” Ha­ley said.

Third grader Jah­siah Payne, 9, said it was great be­ing able to ob­serve ac­tual wild an­i­mals.

“I thought that it was kind of amaz­ing that we got to see real, live ac­tual ea­gles,” Jah­siah said.

J.C. Parks sci­ence teacher Deanna Wheeler said Hill’s stu­dents re­ally got into the project.

“These kids have been so en­thu­si­as­tic. They’ve been study­ing the birds and re­ally get­ting into the as­sign­ment,” Wheeler said.

The class pro­duced a project for the school’s sci­ence mu­seum on bald ea­gles and how they are im­pacted by their en­vi­ron­ment.

“The kids read nonfiction texts about bald ea­gles, did projects about ea­gles and made books about ea­gles, and as part of the sci­ence mu­seum event, the par­ents came in and the stu­dents got to teach them about bald ea­gles,” Hill said.

Cal­la­han urged stu­dents to use what they learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence to ed­u­cate oth­ers.

“Your help­ing to tell other peo­ple about ea­gles is not only help­ing them learn about bald ea­gles, but also learn more about the nat­u­ral world in gen­eral,” Cal­la­han told stu­dents. “You are be­ing teach­ers.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Michael Cal­la­han, nat­u­ral­ist with the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, brought a young bald ea­gle to Stephanie Hill’s third grade class at J.C. Parks El­e­men­tary School on Mon­day.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

J.C. Parks El­e­men­tary School third grader Saarah Mun­taqim, 9, ex­am­ines an ea­gle skull dur­ing a visit by nat­u­ral­ist Michael Cal­la­han of the Nan­je­moy Creek En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter Mon­day.

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