Greenbriar fifth-grade STEM students collaborate to help save local bluebirds
November 5, 2018
Fifth grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes are hoping Eastern Bluebirds call Greenbriar Middle School their home this coming spring and for years to come.
Sara Good, fifth grade STEM coach and her students researched and studied bluebirds, designed and built nest boxes, found locations, and installed the new habitats this fall as part of their project-based learning unit on the environment.
“As engineers, we are always trying to solve problems,” Good explained. “The bluebird population has been declining over the years, so we are hoping with this project that we are creating a preferred habitat for the bluebirds.”
Students worked on the Habitat Heroes project for about three weeks, completing various challenges along the way.
First off, classes discussed the four essential habitat components for any organism – space, food, water and shelter – with a naturalist from the Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation and learned what kind of environment would be best for bluebirds to make their home at Greenbriar.
Students shared that they learned a lot about what bluebirds like when it comes to their habitats, such as bright colors, open fields that are not treated with fertilizers or pesticides, and boxes made of rough cedar wood.
“We also needed to design the nest boxes with particular specifications to keep out predators and invasive species, like other birds, that might want to use the boxes,” Good said.
Classes then created models of what the nest boxes should look like, and partnered with Parma Senior High’s carpentry students to complete the project, which was fully-funded by Lowe’s Home Improvement. About $400 in supplies and materials were donated to the project.
“We made miniature two to one scale of the nest boxes and created blueprints so the carpenters had something to go off of, that way we could build an actual habitat," fifth-grader Gino, shared.
Finally, PSH students came into the STEM classroom to help students build the nest boxes, teaching younger students how to use a hammer, drill and other tools to make their ideas come to life. They also problem-solved together on the best way to install boxes and the best locations for these boxes.
“Last year we worked with the carpentry students for our Space Walk, and it was such a wonderful partnership,” Good shared. “So when this idea came about, it just seemed like a natural fit to match the skills of the carpentry students with my students who did the research and designing of these nest boxes.”
Classes decided to place the boxes five feet off of the ground in the open space around the perimeter of the school. Boxes were put into pairs, about 15 to 20 feet apart, and each pair is about 300 feet apart.
In the spring, the classes will start watching the boxes and see if any other invasive species, like House Sparrows, begin to create nests in the bird boxes. If they do, they will be cleaning out those nests to make sure only bluebirds have their nests in the boxes they created.
“We are also going to be looking for community members who would like to watch the nests over the summer and take data on the type of birds that are nesting in our boxes,” Good expressed. “If they are invasive, the boxes need to be cleaned out. If they are native, we want to log the day and watch the fledgling grow.”
“Hopefully we get some bluebirds here and they like our houses,” she continued. “It may take a few years but we hope other fifth graders and organizations get involved to build a legacy.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Greenbriar students in Sara Good’s STEM 5 class at Greenbriar Middle School work with Career Tech Carpentry students to build bird boxes for local bluebirds.