FLASH This project has been awarded a national "Take Pride in America" award by the Department of the Interior for 2006. Teachers and students will be traveling to Washington, DC to receive the award soon.

Second, Third and Fourth graders have taken on community service projects in cooperation with the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Cheney, as part of their science curriculum. Third and Fourth graders agreed to take responsibility for Riparian Restoration of an acre plot near the Turnbull Classroom and beginning of the Auto Tour Loop Route in March of 2004. The students plant trees and shrubs, and weed out non-native grasses to restore the habitat for wildlife. In addition, students spend one day in late winter taking cuttings for new Red Osier Dogwood and Willow shrubs. The 2005-2006 school year research goal was to collect data about tree growth and evaluate the most successful locations to plant additional trees in the plot. Second graders take responsibility for monitoring a “bluebird trail” of 12 boxes every two weeks from late March through the summer each year.

Discovery School has been going to Turnbull regularly since 2000. Each year has had a little different focus. Some years, students and teachers focus learning on observations within the habitats and animals and plants. Students may begin their study with monthly visits to "their spots" at the Refuge and sitting quietly with eyes and ears open to observe, make notes, and drawings about the habitats, weather, creeks, ponds, animals, birds, insects, and plants. Other years have focused on earth science: weather, and geology, or plant growth, or on identifying habitats.

During the school year of 2005-2006, 3rd + 4th grade students each monitored the growth and development of one tree in our plot. Each month the tree was measured, photographed, and described. Some trees were in an “exclosure” built to keep out browsing deer and moose, some were on the banks of a seasonal stream, and some were in the stream bed. It took practice to accurately measure and record. We made a surprising discovery that trees continue to grow in the winter and that more water is not always optimal. 25 out of 28 trees survived, and the trees on the banks of the stream, not in it, grew the most. In addition to measuring trees, we also collected data on weather, stream depth and width, water pH, soil temperature and water temperature with data loggers purchased through a grant from the Toshiba Foundation.

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The Second graders have adopted monitoring of a Bluebird trail. The class visited Turnbull every two weeks, or 7 times between March and June to monitor by photographing and writing notes on the status of each box. Checking a box involves quietly approaching the box, knocking to alert the mother bird (if there), lifting the side and looking inside to see the status of the nest, then carefully closing the box and replacing the nail to hold the box shut. They also documented each nest status in a notebook, repaired broken or fallen boxes and reported success of nesting bluebird on the Turnbull Refuge.
Bluebird pairs, who mate for life, lay 5-6 blue eggs in a clutch and may have 2-3 clutches in a season. So when the students found a nest in Box #7 with 7 white eggs and clearly a bluebird pair in the area who were observed going in and out of the box, they needed to do more research. They found out that in approximately 5% of first clutches, a bluebird can lay albinistic eggs and they can also lay more than the usual 6 eggs as well. They had indeed seen a very rare occurrence.

Turnbull Tree Planting Day each May finds most Discovery students plus families helping out. Students dig holes, place new trees, backfill dirt and add protective screens. Students planted the sprouted dogwood and willow branches as well as Hawthorn and Cottonwood trees purchased by Turnbull.
In 2005 and 2006, Discovery School students raised $370 by organizing a bake sale at school to pay for hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, etc. and then arranged cooking them, to donate a picnic lunch for 75-100 volunteers who attended the Refuge Spring Planting days for the last two years. The Refuge has had annual tree planting days Riparian Restoration along Pine Creek, but has not had funds to provide a meal for the volunteers. The budget of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge depends on the work and gifts of volunteers to complete many of their projects and monitoring wildlife, such as bluebirds.
The Turnbull experiences spark incredible classroom learning and research. "Teaching the children in a setting such as Turnbull brings learning to life. The sound is birds migrating in the fall, the silence of winter, and the noise of spring. There was the magic of the little deer, the porcupine in the tree, a deer skull, the osprey feeding their young . . . . .it was never ending joy and hard to leave."
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Copyright May 18,1998, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.

Revised July 17, 2006