Classroom chat

First graders at Chequamegon Elementary School learned what scientists do, in this case learning how a great blue heron uses its beak to catch a big fish that it is about to eat.

Just when you think there isn’t anything one can do about climate change, COVID-19 virus, oceans filling up with plastics, loss of almost three billion birds in the last 50 years, loss of wetlands, and the list goes on and on, I walk into a classroom at Chequamegon Elementary School in Park Falls and look into the faces of 36 first graders. What did I see? Faces full of curiosity and hope and the future leaders of our country. I also saw three dedicated teachers that every school day do their best to teach these young people all kinds of technical and people skills. These necessary skills will help their students to become successful in their own lives, contribute to making our society better, and help find solutions to the many problems I mentioned earlier.

When first grade teacher Kelly Minnema asked me to talk to three first grade classes about bird beaks, feet, and feathers and their importance to birds, of course, I said “yes.” I did so because the most important things all of us can do is to encourage and support learning in our young people. They are one of our greatest natural resources for solving problems in the future.

Being a scientist, I decided to teach the kids what a scientist is and does. I told them a scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge and learning in an area of interest, in this case bird beaks, feet, and feathers.

I showed the kids a series of short bird videos I made on how different kinds of birds use their beaks, feet, and feathers in a variety of tasks necessary for them to survive. I asked each student to become a scientist and observe what they saw in the videos and to describe what they observed with the entire class. Sometimes I replayed a video to verify what they had seen and to find out what they may have missed the first time. They did a great job and it gave me hope for the future.

It wasn’t long before the kids, now young scientists, figured out why beaks, feet, and feathers were so important to birds. Many would go home to tell their parents what they had learned. What a great way to disseminate their new-found knowledge and discoveries with others. This should give us all hope that the future of our planet will be in good hands.

To be sure, it was the most rewarding hour I spent that day, and to think teachers do that for hours each day. What an important job teachers have. We need to thank them often and support them for what they do for students. Have you thanked a teacher lately?

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