Project Based Learning took flight last Wednesday evening at Pagosa Peak Open School. Kelle Bruno’s 1st and 2nd grade class has been studying different parts of bird bodies and their functions to answer the question, “What makes a bird a bird?” Students began their inquiry in December and wrapped up their study with a celebration of learning that took place at PPOS on Wednesday, February 12th from 3:30- 5.
The Bird Festival included six interactive tables with educational posters written and illustrated by the students; the 1st and 2nd graders performed a bird-themed musical they wrote with the guidance of school music teacher, Perry Harper, the Artist in Residence and Conservatory Instructor at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. The event included a live peregrine falcon onsite named Dooley, along with his handler, Pat Jackson, from the St. Francis Sanctuary and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Visitors to the festival were given the opportunity to dissect an owl pellet and attempted to identify the bones they found. Students were able to show what they have been learning as they guided their guests to the different tables where they could make a mold of multiple kinds of bird feet with playdough, experiment with different tools and bird food to understand how beaks are adapted to a specific diet, and get their face painted by a PPOS 6th grader to resemble their favorite bird. Students also illustrated notecards that were available for sale by donation, the proceeds of which went to Audubon Rockies.
This bird study would not have been possible without the support from bird enthusiast and community naturalist, Keith Bruno, from Audubon Rockies, who came into the class multiple times to share his expertise with the students. As part of this unit, Keith worked with the 2nd grade students to write a bird of the week article about Golden Eagles that was printed in The Sun. Another key support to the success of this project was from the Foundation for Archuleta County Education (FACE). Keith and Kelle co-wrote a grant for funds to create an educational bird trunk and received $1,200 from FACE to build a trunk full of hands-on materials that can be used in classes of all ages to learn more about birds. The trunk includes silicone molds of bird feet, a kit for owl pellet dissection, replicas of bird skulls ranging in size from a golden eagle to a hummingbird, bird identification and story books, and even an ostrich egg. The trunk is available for free to all educators in Archuleta county. Please contact Keith Bruno at email@example.com if you would like to share the trunk with your students.
The Bird Festival was a great success with a fantastic turnout of parents and family members. Pagosa Peak Open School has a focus on Project Based Learning (PBL), a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. The Bird Festival was a great example of how PBL engages students through hands-on inquiry, solicits input from community professionals to share their knowledge on a given topic, and involves family members in student learning.