Science is for the birds for these Duluth studentsA group of fourth- and fifth-graders at St. Michael’s Lakeside School in Duluth recently had the opportunity to have some fun with power tools, all in the name of science.
A group of fourth- and fifth-graders at St. Michael’s Lakeside School in Duluth recently had the opportunity to have some fun with power tools, all in the name of science.
Nine students in Julianne Blazevic’s class built a total of 65 birdhouses earlier this month as part of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project.
“It was really fun, we used nail guns and all that stuff,” said student Nathan McIntyre. “I like science. It’s fun doing experiments.”
The students made birdhouses for seven different species: bluebird, robin, tree swallow, house wren, screech owl, wood duck and flicker, a member of the woodpecker family. Each student got to take home four houses.
The project is part of a bigger STEM project spearheaded by Blazevic. The school was granted $5,000 by Minnesota Independent School Forum to use for a year-long unit on birds and conservation. Blazevic developed the unit and applied for the funding.
“(STEM) is the hot education topic right now,” she said. “It’s important that we do activities in the classroom to help prepare kids for the future.”
Besides making birdhouses, the students have been working on bird projects in and out of the classroom this year. They’ve taken trips to the Hartley Nature Center, where they have studied migration patterns of birds. They’ve been following one in particular, Jack, a golden eagle who is equipped with a tracking device. This spring they will also develop conservation plans for birds at Hawk Ridge.
“The outdoor education is a big part of what makes this so great,” Blazevic said. “A lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to experience nature like that.”
By having the students plan and build the birdhouses, they were able to incorporate elements of both science and engineering, Blazevic noted.
The students got some help when it came to assembling the birdhouses. Blazevic’s dad pre-cut all of the wood pieces used for assembling the structures. A parent of one of the students helped with the assembling process as well.
Each student got to take home four of the smaller houses, and the leftovers will go to local nature areas. The wood duck houses will go to the Caribou Lake area and the screech owl and flicker houses will likely go to Hartley Nature Center or the St. Louis River area, Balzevic said.
“It was a good project, and there was a lot of preparation that went into it,” she said. “It’s nice that we could make some birdhouses that will be used in local nature areas.”
All of the students said they like science and have enjoyed the project. They said they plan to hang some of the birdhouses at home or give them away to relatives.
“I think I might give some to my grandparents, so they can hang them up,” said Helena Anderson.
“I’m going to put mine up this spring,” Emily Homstad said.
Alia Kuutti said she’s interested in following in her older sister sister’s footsteps into a science field. Kirsi Kuutti, a senior at Duluth East High School, is the captain of the school’s robotics team and plans to study engineering in college.
“There’s a lot of great science opportunities going on around here, especially with the robotics,” Alia said. “Getting to build the birdhouses and using different power tools that we can’t usually use was a fun learning experience.”
Getting students interested in science is just what Blazevic is hoping to hear. The bird project just happens to be one way to do it.
“It was a great learning experience for all the students,” she said. “Hopefully some of the students in this class will take on a science or engineering field one day.”