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Students research helps bluebirds

From the left Grace Callander and Stella Ullom knock on the side of the house to alert the bird if it is nesting while Ella Bowman and Adison Lemmon look on. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl1 / 2
Ella Bowman looks in the nest with help from Teri Hagar. Photo by Margaret Ontl2 / 2

Research is valuable at any level and this year students at River Crest Elementary School had a taste of how data is collected and reported.

"We wanted a hands-on thing that's like real science that the kids can be involved with," said John Mueller, fifth-grade teacher who wrote a grant last year to fund the Bluebird Project. Thirty students in the River Crest Elementary School Environmental Kids Club took on the project.

The project consisted of building, installing and then monitoring and collecting data from each house.

The grant, from the Anne Marie Foundation, was used to facilitate the project. Fourteen bluebird houses were installed; ten on the school grounds and four on Camp St. Croix.

"The kids submitted their data to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin," said Mueller. "I wanted to find a program so the kids that could be involved in data collection and be a part of a state and national effort."

The students learned that while the houses were designed for bluebirds, other birds nested in them as well.

Out of the 14 houses, eight of them were occupied, three by bluebirds. One nest was abandoned.

"The students helped monitor what was in the house," said Mueller, "What type of bird and then they checked them once a week during the egg laying period."

The students determined how many eggs were laid, how many hatched and estimated when they hatched for all of the birds, not just the bluebirds.

Mueller keeps a map in his classroom to show where the houses are located and what type of birds are nesting in the occupied ones.

Next year Mueller plans to write a second grant to extend the program and add signage to the project.