Diane Cook of the Copper Hill School in Ringoes, N.J., who as watched the Eagle Cam since 2008, graciously shared her insights on the Eagle Cam as learning tool.
What made you realize the Eagle Cam could be a great learning tool? The students were always so interested in watching and learning more about the eagles. I knew it would be the perfect motivating subject to get them writing and researching. The little ones love drawing pictures about what they see, too.
What is the best part of the students response? I just love the excitement when they see those little newly hatched eaglets, or watch them feeding. I've had phone calls, emails, or have had parents stop me to tell me how hooked they are since learning about the live cam via a newsletter I sent home. The first thing they ask when coming into lab is, "Can we watch the eagles?" I love the caring and interest.
Why do the students like the eaglets? "They're so cute!" I think they are so fascinated because it is real nature happening right in front of their eyes. You can't find this in a book or poster. Technology brings us to places we'd never be able to visit without it. Do students respond differently by age?The littlest learners enjoy watching the eaglets grow. They are amazed at how fast it happens. The older students have fun identifying what the meal of the day is at any given time. From the kindergarteners to the adults in the room, the reaction to watching these birds is really the same, total amazement and wonder.
What is the most important lesson the eagles teach? Watching the eagles from nest repair to bringing up baby teaches an appreciation for the natural world around us. By watching these two parents work together and care for their young, it also teaches all of us lessons in caring, being gentle with each other and others, and it gets conversations started.
How do you find the time to use the eagle cam in your curricula? Environmental science is my passion and I make the time. I know the objectives and skills I must teach, and the students must master. How I teach those skills is where I have some freedom.Tapping into what interests students will motivate them to want to research to find out more about a subject. Writing about something that fascinates students, gets them excited about writing. The live cam is a great vehicle for teaching Internet safety and navigating a website. It was also an excellent starting point to teach the finer points of blogging and commenting responsibly and thoughtfully.
What was the most difficult moment? How did you handle it? Nature is not always cute and adorable. Age appropriate conversations about what and how the eagles eat are always part of using the live cam. The students know if that is not something they want to see, they don't have to watch it. I have also explained to the students my own feelings and worries about the survival of the eaglets. We all share those same feelings. The children are amazing!
Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Wright writes The Bird Watcher columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.