Hog Island Scholarship

Hog Island Scholarship

By Janice Lloyd

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia gave Kate Sydney a scholarship to attend Audubon’s Hog Island camp in Maine last summer. For the coming summer, ASNV has selected Morgan Occhuizzo.

Below, Kate describes how the experience inspired her to transform the area outside her classroom windows into an attractive environment for bluebirds and other native species. She teaches fifth grade at Glebe Elementary.

My Week at Hog Island

By Kate Sydney

Kate Sydney With Bird Box

Kate Sydney With Bird Box

Last summer, I had the privilege of joining educators from across the country in a weeklong professional development camp on Hog Island in Maine.  The week was filled with everything one would expect to find at a summer camp, hikes, story-telling, camp songs and so much more. 

The activity from Hog Island that has most impacted my work with students this year has been the introduction to the Bird Sleuth materials and curriculum from Cornell’s School of Ornithology.  My students have used that as a starting point to add some native plants to our existing outdoor learning space and to begin our efforts to attract Eastern Bluebirds to our school grounds.  We have added several bluebird nest boxes, including a nest cam and feeding stations to our school grounds.

Students have the responsibility of monitoring the boxes as the birds arrive as well as maintaining the feeding stations. We’re using meal worms.

The kids are very excited. We’ve had a Carolina chickadee that’s decided to nest in the box where we put mealworms. It’s a beautiful little moss nest. The kids watch it all day. He’ll fly in. Today, I had the view up live on the screen during class. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see it lay eggs, and fledge the box.

Our PTA purchased a solar powered camera for the project.

Students have also worked on some research projects using the model laid out in the Bird Sleuth curriculum, and we hope that some will decide to submit their final projects for consideration in their annual publication.

Students are also working with representatives from Audubon in the Audubon at Home project.  We hope to have our outdoor space designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary by continuing to do what we can to attract native species.

The students are very enthusiastic about this work and it has been very motivating for many of them.

  I am grateful I was provided with the Hog Island opportunity. Scientists and expert naturalists led the activities. The week provided me with some of the best professional development I have had.

Hog Island Scholarship to Morgan Occhuizzo

By Janice Lloyd

Morgan Occhuizzo

Morgan Occhuizzo

Want to see young students get excited about conservation ideas and wildlife? Just check out one of Morgan Occhuizzo’s classes.

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia picked Morgan from among eight outstanding teachers to receive a scholarship allowing her to attend an educators’ camp this summer at Audubon’s Hog Island in Maine.

“I’m thrilled to get this experience,’’ said Morgan, an award-winning academic resource teacher in grades K-6 in Fairfax County Public Schools . “I plan to bring back a curriculum that will help benefit more than 1,500 students and provide a curriculum to 300 teachers.”

At the week-long camp in July, Audubon specialists will hold workshops, using techniques in art, music, theater, journaling, and other disciplines and take the teachers on classic Audubon field trips.

She already has made a big impact as a teacher, says Carl Kikuchi, president of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.  "We think this is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of outdoor education in Northern Virginia, and we are looking forward to working with her," Carl said.

He praised her strong initiatives in citizen science and hands-on project-based learning.

For example, she has been involving parents who work at U.S. Fish and Wildlife to discuss the importance of developing and protecting natural habitat for native species with her classes. For a project, the students are building nesting boxes for birds.

Also, she won the Discovery Garden Program for establishing butterfly gardens and a year-round, sustainable garden at the Terra Centre Elementary in Burke, Va.

“Everything we grow, we use,’’ she says. “We grew winter wheat. I had the wheat ground and we made bread. I’ll have a Top Chef program where the students have to create meals with what’s growing, like wild onions and dandelions.”

Another top goal in her curriculum is getting students involved in community service. They work with a local food bank and visit retirement homes where they take flower arrangements from the gardens.

What’s next for her classes after the Audubon camp?  In addition to improving the current curriculum, she’s excited about developing several other projects.

She wants to teach students different ways of identifying birds and to involve them in restoring the native habitat at school for birds and other wildlife.

“Some parents have offered to help by buying binoculars,’’ she said. “I’ll learn this summer at Hog Island about ways to identify birds, including apps the students can use.”