Columbus State Launches ‘Kids BirdWatch’

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Fourth-graders from Fort Benning’s McBride Elementary — the first of five participating schools — this week have launched a birdwatching project that supports a national research effort.

Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center has designed the project as a “hands-on” science enrichment program called “Kids BirdWatch.”

The McBride students will be joined in the pilot program by about 350 students and a dozen teachers from Key, South Columbus, Clubview and Mathews elementary schools.

While at Oxbow Meadows, the students will learn to use binoculars and practicing spotting and identifying wild birds. They’ll continue to hone their birdwatching skills at their school birdfeeding stations and collect data and send reports via the Internet to Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab.

The students also will receive a free hummingbird feeder so they can continue to watch birds at home throughout the summer.

Each school is receiving a free bird feeding station — a metal pole, thistle feeder, sunflower feeder and suet feeder — plus enough bird food to keep them full through the end of May. Each student and teacher also will receive a copy of “A Checklist of Georgia Birds,” “A Checklist of the Birds of Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge,” “For the Birds” and “Birding Basics.”

“Our goal is to immerse students and their teachers in the excitement of scientific discovery and provide them with tools and skills they need to get started in one of the fastest growing citizen-science and outdoor recreation activities in America — birdwatching,” said Heidi Hughes, executive director of the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

The equipment, publications and supplies valued at over $16,000 were contributed by local and national businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

“Next year, we want to double the number of students and teachers in this program,” said Denise Morris, the Muscogee County School District teacher who works at the Environmental Learning Center. “Give us a call if you’d like to help sponsor a student, a teacher or a school.”