Sisters students take classroom outdoors


Last updated 4/5/2022 at Noon

Bill Bartlett

Sisters students of different ages collaborated in an outdoor education project last week.

A collaboration between third-graders from Sisters Elementary School and ninth-graders from Rima Givot’s Sisters High School biology class is the first of many science-related projects designed bring together different age groups in the school district.

Each of the three third-grade classes took outings to the Trout Creek Conservation area behind the high school on Friday, April 1, to meet up with Givot and her students to identify birds in the area. The collaboration was organized by Givot, the classroom teachers, and Jocelyn Blevins, who teaches Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at the elementary school.

An additional age group that played a role in the bird study came from adults in the community with expertise in bird studies, who have been working in previous weeks with the biology students as they studied genetics, bird behavior, and habitat.

“It really was a multi-generational unit of study,” said Givot. “Ken Hashagan, Barb Schulz, Cal Allen, Kris Kristovich, Trudy Sargent, Patty McGill, Aaron Jenkins, and Kaci Rae Christopher worked with small groups of my students to learn more about how to observe and identify the native species in the forest and the open areas around the high school,” said Givot.

The high school students were then prepared to share what they had learned and apply it to what the third-graders were studying.

“The high school students then helped develop lessons to share with the third-grade students, including how to use binoculars, how to observe birds, and how to then identify them,” said Givot.

Julie Holden, one of the third-grade teachers, said, “My third-graders were so excited to load the buses and go to the high school for a science field trip. They were all a-twitter with excitement!

“Ms. Givot’s biology class was extremely well prepared and I particularly enjoyed seeing students that I had previously taught, coached, or just watched grow up in Sisters work with the third-graders. The connection was really special.”

Holden continued, “Ms. Givot’s enthusiasm for nature was contagious, as you could watch 15 kids ranging in age from 8 to about 15 with binoculars at their eyes all working to identify a peeping songbird in a tree, four Canada geese overhead, or a bluebird perched on a fence at the same time. This was a special experience to be a part of and I appreciate the teamwork between Mrs. Blevins, Ms. Givot, and our third-grade team.”

The students had use of binoculars acquired with support from grants from the Sisters Schools Foundation, Sisters Science Club, the East Cascades Audubon Society, and the Battelle Foundation. Each student recorded information on their individual data sheet.

Birds identified during the day numbered 19 different species, including the white-headed woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch (excavating a nest), Say’s phoebes, western bluebirds, bufflehead ducks, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, dark-eyed juncos, and mountain chickadees

Givot explained how the content of the field day matches up with the educational standards in the district.

“This activity aligns with standards for studying ecology, genetics, adaptations, science inquiry, and collecting and analyzing data,” she said. “It also relates to human impact and understanding the role of different habitats for different bird species. The students were able to see how some species are more specific to certain habitats, while other birds utilized some or all the habitats.”

Givot and Holden both view the experience as going beyond the science in that it incorporated other district goals regarding the concepts of “belonging” and “inspiring.”

Givot said, “This experience is so positive in helping all the students connect and feel belonging and also inspiration. When the high school students teach the elementary students they build community and connection. You have to believe it was inspiring because when the time allotment was coming to a close, no one wanted to leave!”


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