Avian Allure

By Eve Pranis

When the idea of creating a "garden for the birds" inspired Columbia, SC, teacher Arlene Marturano's sixth graders, a local environmental center gave them space to do so.

After brainstorming components of a bird garden habitat -- food, shelter, water, and nesting material -- the class split into investigative teams. The team charged with providing food for the birds researched, then chose plants that would produce avian seed and fruit feasts. These included sunflowers, millet, corn, thistle, calendula, cosmos, strawberries, and holly. Another group learned about nectar-producing plants that would entice hummingbirds. A shelter group discovered that they could provide housing by growing birdhouse gourds, creating a brush pile, and building birdhouses. Once the teams had researched different design, construction, and plant selection problems they encountered, they worked together to create a bird-friendly garden design.

Armed with donated plants and seeds, the kids created a bird-friendly environment, says Arlene. Volunteer carpenters built a kid-sized, walk-in birdhouse, which the students brought to life with paintings of flowers, bees, and other garden elements. The kids created a brochure that explained bird habitat needs and how different plants were important to bird survival, then placed copies in the oversized birdhouse to inform visitors.

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