On a warm sunny afternoon in early November, 2008, members of NiCHE’s Transnational Ecologies group worked with a Grade 4/5 class at Mulberry School in Kingston, Ontario, to try out a new unit on migratory birds. Led by Astrid Michels and assisted by Laura Cameron, the children walked to City Park where the class was divided into four groups. Each group took on the name of a local migratory bird: the children became the Red-tailed Hawks, the Chimney Swifts, the American Robins and the Canada Geese. Although familiar, each of these species has its own fascinating geography and history. For instance, the Chimney Swifts, whose group namesake travels to Peru yearly, learned how Queen’s University once had a large population before their chimney home on Fleming Hall was screened off. The species as a whole is now listed as ‘threatened’ and efforts now are being made at Queen’s and elsewhere to re-create welcoming nesting sites.
After learning more about their particular species in four different hands-on activities involving nesting, migratory patterns, predators/dangers and food, each group of students wrote a message on a postcard decorated with an image of their bird. Each stamped and self-addressed postcard was attached to a helium balloon and then released, with much ceremony and excitement. Two initially were caught up in the trees but the others managed to fly out over the city, heading west. The postcards included a request to the finder to return the card to the School. So far, two postcards have returned. The Robin postcard (see photo of the reverse side) traveled over 300 km to the shore of Lake Simcoe, not far from Orillia, the home town of Stephen Leacock. The finder, June Reimer, wrote the class a letter of encouragement and included a postcard of Leacock’ home. She said ‘I was so excited to find your balloons with the attached note….Congratulations on a very imaginative project….’
Transnational Ecologies is working on other ideas and projects that will connect communities along migratory routes in the Americas. For instance, two members will be travelling to Costa Rica over the December break and will meet with communities that share with southern Ontario migratory species like the Wood Thrush. If you have a related project and/or would like to be involved, please contact us via Kirsten Greer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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