Twenty Broward County schools have participated thus far in educating children and youth about ways to care for, protect, and count the owls. Activities have included making a wildlife journal, creating artificial burrows, providing perches, signs, stakes and rope, and learning how to become "Certified Burrow Caretakers". Because lawn mowing equipment is heavy and damages burrows, the creation of artificial burrows has been an important part of the process of saving the Burrowing Owls. It also facilitates relocating burrows away from unsafe areas of school grounds. What is amazing, is how unique each school project turns out to be and how many different school subjects, classes and clubs that these projects impact. We have had science fair participants, environmental clubs, and science classes, but we have also had student journalists, videographers, photographers, and artists as well as a math class, a shop class, a robotics lab, and children with special needs. In all of our projects, the students do as much of the work as possible. The artificial burrows are dug by students; the maps for the projects are made by students; the artwork, videos, photographs, signs, banners, and website are all created by students.
Blanche Ely High School
On February 19, 2016, a group of Audubon volunteers went to Blanche Ely Magnet High School to check on two burrows. Both were in use, and the owls flew to nearby trees when the team approached. Some students came to see what was going on and the Audubon team taught them how to rope off one of the burrows and install an informational sign. The second burrow was overgrown with weeds and the students volunteered to take turns clearing the grass around the burrows. As everyone was leaving, the owls flew back to the safety of the burrows and watched, big yellow eyes tracking, continuing on with their never-ending job of predator surveillance.
Cooper City and Piper High Schools
These schools had owls nest on very busy athletic fields and had to suspend or move their practices and games.Cooper City High had the Students for the Improvement of the Environment (SITE) club already working on a future owl project. They quickly changed all of their plans, diagrams, and sprung into action. They raised funds while they pushed everything back through their approval process. A student journalist documented everything.The teacher and club practiced project management, consensus building and learned a lot about school governance. At Piper High a very supportive athletic coach joined forces with the environmental club and science classes to get some new burrows installed quickly. When asked "What about football?", he said the students were way more excited to help the owls first. It was a unique opportunity.
Driftwood Middle School
Our second school that wanted to create artificial burrows was Driftwood Middle School, because their long time, very prolific owl nest was being replaced by classrooms.They also had a pair of owls trying to burrow on the athletic fields from time to time. So the students found and designed spaces, fences and three new burrows for their owls. The owls moved into their new digs and the population has thrived, with three active breeding pairs.The science students read the book "Hoot" and dissected owl pellets.
Griffin Elementary School
Our first participating school was Griffin Elementary with owls nesting on the playground. This school exemplifies living in harmony with these owls. They have always celebrated them. They have dealt with their issues through education and have never asked to create alternate habitat.They created a banner for the owls, a video of their owls and a "NING" website so they could share their story and communicate with other schools. They installed owl friendly PVC fencing around their burrows and educational signs near where the parents wait to pick up students.The students learned why Burrowing Owls are the superheroes of our natural world. The pre-K and kindergarten students made owl masks out of paper plates, and pretended to fly outside where they watched the real owls fly. Students used paper and paint to create life size owls and decorated their hallways with them; while environmental club participants got the chance to dissect owl pellets early. Currently, they are working on a census for the schools and hope to include a wish list for schools that want projects and supplies.
Indian Ridge Middle and Owl Lookout Park
Indian Ridge Middle School helped Davie councilwoman, Susan Starkey, realize a dream. They partnered together and installed artificial owl burrows at a local park. That park was officially renamed by the city of Davie as "Owl Lookout Park."
McArthur High School
Our third school was McArthur High School. Their shop class made perches for all of the other schools and their environmental club helped Driftwood Middle School install their burrows and fencing. A student applied for and won a grant, entered the science fair, mapped out an owl reserve and designed and installed an artificial nesting box with infrared lighting.This student also set up a web camera so video could be transmitted to a laptop. Boy was it dark in there!
Pioneer Middle School
On November 8, 2016, Pioneer Middle students installed two burrows with the assistance of SFAS volunteer Paul Kragh. The original Hoot school joins the schools that are more actively helping their owls with artificial burrows. This was a hard decision for Pioneer as they've always attracted owls naturally, even though people often thought the movie was entirely staged and that owls would never live there. This is not true, just the opposite, owls have always lived there. Hopefully the owls can stabilize a bit and do better reproductively once protected from the mowers. (photo credit: Diana Guidry)
Pompano and Sheridan Hills Elementary Schools
Two of our elementary schools installed artificial burrows on the perimeter of their athletic field or playground, to passively encourage the owls to move to better locations. One of those schools simultaneously did native plantings of trees, bushes and flowers in raised beds, using recycled railroad ties as borders and pine needle mulch combined with open space habitats for the owls.
Hollywood Hills Elementary Owl Release
When the Humane Society's Wildlife Care Center called to say they had received an injured Burrowing Owl near the Hollywood Hills Elementary School, the school was excited and moved very quickly to install new artificial burrows and issue a press release.
They held a school wide assembly so all of their students could learn about the owls and ask questions.
Then they had a "Welcome Home Ceremony" where students were lined up to watch the owl being released and to be interviewed by local TV and newspapers.
Cooper City Owl Release
A Pioneer Middle School student, with the help of his dad, rescued a Burrowing Owl in Cooper City and brought it to the Humane Society's Wildlife Care Center. Once the owl was rehabilitated, the student was allowed to release it back where he found it.
Griffin Elementary School helped out and attended. At the ceremony, the student was personally thanked by the Mayor. The crowded cheered and all of it was captured on the news. The student was so proud. He said it was the best thing he had ever done.
At the release events the children were so interested in seeing a live bird, hearing the story of how it was injured, and how it was rehabilitated. They studied real x-rays trying to figure out where owls were injured. The children clapped and cheered as the bird was released, flew out of the cage and perched nearby. They had opportunities to ask questions afterwards.
Griffin Elementary Schools Eco Patrol held a fundraiser to take in specific supplies for the Humane Society to help other injured owls.
A Special thanks to all individuals contributing photos for these slideshows. Contributors have included but not been limited to, Andy Downs, Brian Mealy, Georgia Mally, Barbara Miller, James Currie, Kelby Drew, Art Nelson, Allison Zack, and Wild Life Care Center.
Our first Project Perch volunteer.
Students clear the overgrown vegetation around a burrow after they installed a protective barrier fence.
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