Students’ study of bald eagles capped off with real thing
J.C. Parks class gets close up view after watching EagleCam
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.”
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.
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.