Welcome to "All About Eagles," written and illustrated by Gareth, a first-grader at the Copper Hill School in Ringoes, N.J.
Gareth did his eagle book the conventional way, and we figured we that best way to share it (with Gareth and his parents' permission) was to make it an e-book that you can view online (and even hear the pages turn). The link is the free on-line e-book here. (If your volume is on, you can hear the pages turn.) One of the goals of the Duke Farms Eagle Cam is to provide an incredible learning tool for schools. Gareth makes everyone proud.
Teacher Diane Cook, who won Eagle Cam Lesson Plan Contest last year, provides a bit of background: "Since the DF live cam went on air in 2008, my students and I watch and do various lessons throughout the nesting season during Computer Literacy class. "First-graders use the live cam to tell a digital story of the Bald Eagles life cycle, writing and illustrating it as they observe it happening online. "While everyone is fascinated, each year there are a handful of students who really connect with the birds. "
In Mrs. MacRitchies classroom, students learn how to write All About books in Writers Workshop. This project is not only teaching students to write, but it is also a research project. "Students use books and a web service called PebbleGo to research a topic of choice. Gareths original topic was birds and very broad. Mrs. MacRitchie asked him to be more specific and suggested he pick one bird. His choice was the bald eagle.
I met Gareth as a kindergartener in Copper Hill Elementary School in the Flemington Raritan School district. He was, and still is, a quiet boy. He keeps to himself, but takes in a lot. "He was extremely proud, however when Mrs. MacRitchie had him share his bald eagle project with me.
His mother has told me how proud he is of the attention his book is receiving. He worked hard, and it is a great example of what these students can do. "The Bald Eagle cam provides a wonderful and innovative use of technology. We are taken into a place we do not normally see. Before we can care enough about nature to conserve it, we need to see, experience, and know it. The live cam does that and more! I like to think that I'm opening the door for the next naturalist or wildlife biologist in one of my primary students. It is truly an inspiration to many.
"In my other school, Robert Hunter Elementary, there is another success story. This one comes from a second-grade class. Mrs. Zarzecki sent one her most reluctant writers to me one day to share a poem he had written.
"What was the topic? You guessed it, bald eagles! The live cam has so touched him. Where once writing was a dreaded task for him, he now chooses to write whenever he can about what he is observing online. "When faced with a writing assignment, he balks until it is suggested that he can write about the eagles. He then jumps into the task wholeheartedly."
(Thanks, Gareth and teachers!)
Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Wright writes The Bird Watcher columnist for The Record. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and a deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.