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Season's Greetings Robert: Thanks so much for sharing that encouraging
story. It goes right to the heart of my previous comments. I have given
talks on birds to high school students and was profoundly dismayed at the
apparent lack of interest or attention. Consequently, I concluded that such
outreach efforts required an earlier grade level introduction. Your message
would appear to confirm my conclusion. On a personal level, my wife and I
have endeavored to start very early with our grandchildren and it seems to
work. We oft forget that childhood is full of awe and wonder.

The FWS offers an excellent program titled "shorebirds in the classroom"
that includes textbooks, props and internet contacts and is hemispheric in
scope (Alaska to SA). We should all strive to encourage and inspire
educators to adopt such strategic curriculums. I believe the conventional
wisdom is that: "one must first know something before appreciating it".
Thanks for your early holiday gift - I commend your efforts!   Patrick Leary
----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Lengacher <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2003 8:05 AM
Subject: [FLBIRDS] Of Herring Gulls, Fire Drills, and Cruel People


This is a long one, but I believe it is worthwhile reading.

Over the past week, my fifth graders in Classroom FeederWatch have been
working on bird topography, bird identification, and writing field notes.
Because I am STILL waiting for financial powers that be at FSU to release
the money from my grant for binoculars, our work has been confined to using
PowerPoint presentations with "mystery birds."  Although I've noticed that
their ability to describe size, shape, and plumage has progressed greatly,
the following incident really surprised me.

Yesterday,just as we were beginning our CFW lesson, the fire drill went off.
We quickly lined up and filed down the walkway toward the big field in front
of our school.  It was very windy and right away my students noticed the
huge flocks of seagulls swirling around the school.  Mixed in with the
multitude of Ring-billed Gulls were two Herring Gulls.  As we walked out and
stood in the field, my students spent a great deal of time studying the
confusing mass of birds.  When we finally returned, I asked my students what
they observed.  Nearly all the kids noticed the Herring Gulls.  Here are
some of their observations: "They were bigger...", "They had a dark
brownish, grayish color", "They had longer wings", "They glided more
smoothly"
Some of my students had comments/questions about the Ring-billed Gulls:
"Look at all of them sitting on the roof," "Why do they point their wings
back?" (Because of the high winds, many were gliding with their wings in a
"swept back" position)

Needless to say, I was amazed and pleased with their budding observational
skills, their patience, and the genuine appreciation and interest in the
birds.   I share this story because I think it directly relates to the
discussion about the behavior of certain people who seem to disregard or
even harass birds.  I believe the best way to reduce that type of behavior
is to increase people's awareness of birds.  One strategy that I have used
is offering people views through my binoculars.  Although mine are not
top-of-the-line they are much better than the cheap-o's that most people
have in their homes.  Typically, I hear "Oohs" and "Wows."  This usually
meant that the person just saw a bird in a brand new way. Again, awareness
was my goal.  We cannot change people's minds and we can only try to
legislate or influence behavior.  But the birds can do both.

I distinctly remember when I first gained appreciation for birds as a boy.
A friend of mine had a pellet gun, and shot a mourning dove off a branch.
When it hit the ground it stilled appeared to be alive.  I took the bird and
threw it up into the air to make it fly.  When it hit the ground, its neck
was broken.  Yes boys, including myself can be a cruel lot.  However, when I
held the bird in my hands for a second time, my eyes were opened.  This
little thing was a wonder!  I did not become a birder for another 20 years,
but that moment of cruelty was the first time I noticed birds in an
meaningful way.  My behavior was changed because of the bird.  I realize
that I am in a better position than most to share this appreciation with
young people, but we are all educators for those around us.  Take advantage
of "teachable moments" when they arise.

Rob Lengacher
Tallahassee, FL
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