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Austin Peay professors, staff visit Moore Magnet to teach students about birds

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Jessica Grady shows fifth-graders at Moore Magnet School a bird specimen.

(Posted on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022)

On a cold February morning earlier this year, several Austin Peay State University professors, staff members and students visited Moore Magnet Elementary School to continue a burgeoning partnership between the two schools.

During this trip, three main Austin Peay representatives – Michelle Rogers, a principal investigator from APSU’s Center of Excellence for Field Biology; Alexandra Wills, director of APSU’s Community Engagement & Sustainability office; and Olivia Herron, APSU’s sustainability coordinator – visited the school’s third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to teach the students about birds.

The trip piggybacked on several other visits to the school – including re-establishing an outdoor classroom – while also preparing the students for February’s annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Rogers, Wills and Herron taught the students how to feed and identify birds and their habitats, and Rogers taught the fifth-graders how to use binoculars.

“You can do this at home if you want,” Rogers told Elisabeth Stoudemire’s fifth-grade class. “Birds need a lot of the same stuff that you do. They need food. They need water. They need shelter. They need a place to raise their young just like your mom and dad have a house where they take care of you.”

Rogers – who helped the students establish a feeding area outside the school – discussed how birds are attracted to nearby creeks, trees, grass and shrubs to provide their food, water and shelter.

She discussed with the students the types of food birds eat and where they find and eat that food, and she talked about how to identify birds – including how to tell if they’re nestlings, fledglings or adults.

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Moore Magnet fifth-graders try out the binoculars.

But the highlight of the class was when Rogers and her APSU helpers – student Olivia Cunningham and Jessica Grady, biological collections manager for the Department of Biology – passed out binoculars for the Moore students to practice using. The office of Community Engagement & Sustainability used grant money to buy the binoculars for these types of outreach efforts.

“Binoculars are fun and the best tool for looking at birds,” Rogers told the class as they peered through the lenses to identify bird specimens from across the room. “Here’s what you have to keep in mind, when you go outside, you’ll see a bird sitting on a branch and then it’ll move. This is why binoculars take a lot of practice.

“If you look over and find something really quick, that’s what you have to learn to do over and over, and it’s harder when things change distance,” she added.

Working with the community

Austin Peay continues its outreach in Clarksville and beyond. Here are a few recent examples:

And Rogers continues her work with Moore Magnet teachers, making sure they have access to materials and expertise.

“We can provide a lot of support to them,” she said. “We have access to native seeds and experts in water quality and the plants and animals that live here.”

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