Eagle Eye: Third-Graders Scope Out Bald Eagles during their Winter Migration to Croton-on-Hudson
There’s a recurring theme in our schools. When passion—whether it be that of a teacher, student, or community member—is at the center of a lesson, it creates the most engaging environment for everyone to learn and grow.
Today’s example perfectly showcases the magic that can happen when students are immersed in interdisciplinary units, core to their community, and receive help from experts who also happen to be neighbors.
Each year, third-graders at CET study bald eagles through an integrated Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts unit. In class, students reference nonfiction articles and books, as well as daily observation of a live bald eagle cam. These materials provide information on the anatomy, behaviors, life cycle, history, and national significance of the bald eagle.
It’s no surprise that this trip aligns with Teatown’s annual Eagle Fest event. If you visited Croton Point Park last weekend, you would have seen the bald eagle posters created by the third graders on display!
Last week, the students brought their knowledge to the next level with help from naturist and neighbor, Charlie Roberto. Mr. Roberto’s daughter was in Ms. Gina Glynn’s class in 2006 and that’s when he first shared his passion for bald eagles with her students. Every year since Ms. Glynn’s class has visited the Croton River to scope out bald eagles and see with their own eyes the magnificent creatures that soar through their backyards.
Armed with binoculars and a clipboard for recording their observations, students saw eagles ranging in ages perched in nearby trees, and flying above the water. Mr. Roberto helped students spot the eagles and shared important facts about their history in our region, noting that at one point, bald eagles were endangered due to the use of DDT insecticide. The chemical interfered with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells. As a result, their eggs had shells so thin that they often broke during incubation or otherwise failed to hatch. Ms. Glynn says that she hopes that this lesson helps students realize and appreciate that, once on the verge of extinction, the bald eagle's resurgence and current flourishing presence is a gift to us and our environment.
Although it was a chilly morning on the water, the children were very excited to see bald eagles in nature. Luke was especially excited to see a juvenile eagle because “their wingspan is bigger than adult bald eagles.” Bet you didn't know that in its first year, a juvenile has longer flight feathers (wing and tail) than it will ever have again. With each successive molt, the new flight feathers are a few millimeters shorter.
This field trip is special for many reasons. Ms. Glynn believes “this unit taps into children's natural curiosity about animals, raises awareness of the bald eagle's existence in their community, and the importance of protecting animals and keeping their environments healthy.” For many students, one of the most special parts of the field trip was having their parents join them. And we’re sure that all of them will tell you that Axl’s dad won MVP for bringing hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy and warm up with!