Multi-grade bird house project promotes learning


Last updated 5/16/2023 at 3:57pm

Photo by Jerry Baldock

Older students helped younger ones build bird boxes in a joint project last week.

The Sisters Elementary School paved playground was a beehive of activity last Friday morning, as four classes of first-graders - about 80 students - worked with their Sisters Middle School seventh grade mentors to construct-a bird house/nesting box.

The project came about when middle school math and STEAM teacher Jeff Schiedler mentioned a bird house building project his seventh-graders were undertaking to Sisters Elementary School first-grade teacher Erika Valikonia. The first-graders were going to be studying birds in their unit on biomimicry, part of their STEM program (science, technology, engineering, math).

The wood for the bird houses was donated by Sisters Fence Company, and the screws by Hoyt's Hardware & Building Supply. The seventh-graders did all the measuring and cutting of the wood at the middle school while studying geometry and angles. The students came up with the idea to come to the elementary school and partner with the first-graders to construct their bird houses.

There were several different styles and sizes of bird houses depending on the type of birds that would use the house and their nesting habits. Some were open, some closed and small for chickadees, nuthatches, and the like.

Prior to Friday, the seventh-grade students had spent four days last week testing, so Schiedler had them walk to the elementary school and back to provide some fun exercise. The sun came out Friday morning for the walks and the building project.

Tentative plans for the bird houses include a field trip to Wild Haven to install the houses around the property. The 160-acre preserve north of town, acquired by Sisters School District in 2022, serves as a site to support District efforts to expand environmental education.

The project was such a success that Schiedler is thinking it may become an annual spring tradition.

Seventh-grader Elizabeth Beaver shared sentiments similar to other students.

Photo by Jerry Baldock

Building birdhouses is part of STEM/STEAM curriculum.

"I loved doing this project," she said. "It was fun to hang out with the younger kids and help them."

One seventh-grader explained to his first-grade partner, "You have to clean it (the house) out periodically. That means every once in a while."

The first-grade teachers whose classes studied birds are: Cameron Croisant, Annie Reid, Jim Stengel, and Erika Velikonia.

Sisters Elementary School received a STEM grant and became a STEM school to enable more science unit planning and experiences, according to Reid. The focus of a STEM education is hands-on, problem-based learning in a multi-disciplinary approach. STEAM at the middle school also incorporates the arts and is designed to encourage discussions and problem-solving among students, developing both practical skills and appreciation for collaborations.


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