Wings Over Water – an Osprey middle-school curriculum

Dr. Erick Greene, Professor of Biology at the University of Montana, has been studying Ospreys for many years. He runs the Montana Osprey Project, with its two webcams, here in Missoula, and a worldwide audience. Last year Erick approached Five Valleys Audubon to see if we were interested in funding a grant request to NASA. We were. He got the grant. And here is what he did with it:

watching Ospreys on their nest

“We are so excited to let you know about our first ever WOW (Wings Over Water) educational program!  For about five years, I have had the idea that Ospreys would be an ideal species around which to build an exciting, hand’s-on science curriculum.   Last fall I approached Five Valleys Audubon with this idea, and you folks were the first to show us love!!  Your chapter made a generous donation of $500 to support our idea.  We were able to leverage this money into a major grant from Montana Space Grant Consortium (which is funded by NASA).  We have been able to hire Jenélle Dowling as a full time program manager (i.e. herder of cats), as well as bringing on Lisa Bickell (Education Director at Montana Natural History Center) and Amy Howie (Distance Education Expert at Montana Natural History Center).  Together these funds have allowed us to develop an exciting curriculum for middle school grades.  This is a truly collaborative project between the University of Montana, the Montana Natural History Center and the Five Valleys Audubon Society. 

Ospreys are a great species because we can develop curriculum around flight and aerodynamics, environmental monitoring and chemistry, satellites and GPS, and ospreys as they fit into larger ecosystems.  We have developed an exciting set of lesson plans that bring in math, physics, biology, chemistry, environment, and Native Education for All.  Many schools in Montana are within a few miles of an osprey nest.  Also, ospreys are just so darn cool!  We focused our program on middle school grades since this is when many kids lose interest in science, especially girls and young women. 

We just finished our first intensive, week-long workshop for teachers.  We were able to bring in a small group of some of the best and most gifted teachers in the state. These teachers represented a wide diversity of populations and places:  three teachers are from tribal school, and others are from rural areas. We pushed them hard from dawn to dusk, and we were able to do lots of exciting things together:  learn about aerodynamics (of planes and birds and drones), go flying in Cessnas, fly birds in wind tunnels, band osprey chicks and take small blood and feather samples, visit our environmental chemistry lab, and much more.  This was a truly symbiotic project, since we were able to learn so much from these master teachers.  We will be working with them all year as they develop and teach this osprey curriculum at their schools.

So we just want to give you Audubon folks a HUGE THANKS!!  You kickstarted this project, and we are excited to see where it goes.  Give yourselves a big pat on the back, and stay tuned!”


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