The eagle nest at Duke Farms has been loved by fans since our first chicks hatched in the public eye in 2005. Since then, we’ve watched the eagles successfully raise 23 chicks over 12 nesting seasons. These birds have inspired a love of the species and a resulting conservation ethic in over 11 million viewers.
As educators, we’re dedicated to finding creative new ways to engage others in science education. At Duke Farms, we’ve used these high profile eagles as creative tools for public education. During the nesting season, we run the live cam in our café and Orientation Center and have highly trained volunteer Docents on site who can interpret the cam. We’ve worked with our partner and friend Jim Wright to produce an eagle e-book and a series of blog posts over the course of the nesting season to help interested viewers understand what’s happening in the nest.
And, we’ve developed some unique resources for teachers who use the cam in their classrooms. There’s a new Eagle Kit that can be borrowed for classrooms and includes several bald eagle-themed short stories, field guides, costume elements and replicas of an egg, skull, and talon. Lesson plans for all grade levels are also included. The production of high quality educational materials is very important to us, so we’ve also produced a suite of eagle themed lesson plans that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
We offer professional development workshops for teachers on eagle ecology and lesson development and have developed the extremely popular Eagle Cam Lesson Plan Contest. Teachers from all grade levels submit original lesson plans and the winner earns a special invitation to join our staff and state biologists to band the chicks. The past two winners of the contest are some of the most celebrated teachers in their districts and are masters at integrating meaningful science into their lessons. Both have used the eagle cam in their classrooms for years and have some advice to offer other teachers for how to manage their curriculum in this year that finds us with no eggs in our nest:
Don't stop watching!
There are interesting observations you can make using the Duke Farms Eagle Cam even if there are no eggs on the nest.
- Adult feeding inventory (What's being brought into the nest? Turtles? Fish? Birds?) You can turn this into a game with the students. Have them guess what the eagles will bring next. Example: Make a chart of all the kid's names and record their guesses. See which student is the most accurate.
- Intruders (Monitor who is lurking - There was a Red-tailed hawk last week.)
- Weather - windy, rainy? How does that effect the adults?
- Behavior - Are the eagles still mating? Are they acting any differently from last season? Are they spending more or less time in the nest?
Looking for other wildlife cams? Check out explore.org
- Lauren Kurzius, 2016 Eagle Cam Lesson Plan Contest Winner
Alexander Batcho Intermediate School, Manville NJ
I cannot remember a late winter/spring without watching the Duke Farms live Bald Eagle cam. The day I introduced my classes to the live cam (with the exciting new Bald Eagle Kit from Duke Farms) was the very same day the new female was seen at the nest. I used it as a teaching point. As my students and I wondered what was going on, we turned to the experts for input on what we were watching. We were witnessing, new behavior in the Duke Farms nest, but not new behavior for bald eagles. It was a unique learning experience for us all.
While we cannot observe the nesting season of our local pair of bald eagles at Duke Farms, we can still be observers and learn about our natural world by visiting other nesting camera sites. When Duke Farms first went live, the number of web cams available online were few. One of the first came from Decorah, Iowa. This nest has a history similar to the one at Duke Farms, which is why I like to follow it. I like to use this link for the chat free viewing. http://www.decoraheaglecamalerts.com/ The Raptor Resource Project hosts a wonderful website with LOTS of information on both nests in Decorah in addition to the live cams embedded on the page. http://www.raptorresource.org/
Today, there are many live cams, as close by as Pennsylvania and as far away as California and Alaska. Teaching about these spectacular birds continues in my classroom. I present what we are seeing as if it is what would be happening if the Duke Farms nest was not interrupted this year. Next year, I may assign different live cams to different classes to watch. They can report observations to each other and we can compare what is happening in nests around the United States. The change in behavior in the nest this season has taught me to be flexible to adapt lessons…you never know what teachable moment nature will show you.
I also found this list of cams: https://eagleholic.wordpress.com/eagle-cam-list/
- Diane Cook, 2015 Eagle Cam Lesson Plan Contest Winner
Copper Hill Elementary School, Ringoes NJ