Flathmann, J. 2002. 6 Schools Abuzz Over
Hummingbird Research. The York Observer,
March 1, p 1Y.

Staff Writer, York Bureau
© The Charlotte Observer

Many area students, from kindergartners to high school seniors, will soon be participating in a program called Hummingbird Habitats.

Six schools in York County are planning to build a garden habitat to attract hummingbirds. The schools will collect data for the international Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Each school will get $400 to build a garden, which will include native plants, a hummingbird feeder and other features that will vary by school. Besides collecting data, teachers plan to design lesson plans around the garden in different subject areas.

"It's a way to get kids interested in research and interested in science," said Bill Hilton Jr., the program's countywide coordinator.

Participating schools include Sunset Park and Northside elementaries and Rock Hill High in Rock Hill, Cotton Belt Elementary in York, and Gold Hill Middle and Springfield Elementary in Fort Mill. Springfield Elementary, a new school next to the Anne Springs Close Greenway, decided to make it a schoolwide project because of one hummingbird a teacher noticed around the school when it opened last fall. The bird inspired the interest of enough faculty and students to be part of the project, which will span students' elementary school careers.

Mary Raines, a third-grade teacher at Springfield, wants all the children there to track the garden's growth in a journal that will also track the growth of the child through elementary school.

"Our plan is to involve the whole school, the care of it, the maintenance of it," Raines said.

Sunset Park Elementary is gearing its garden, built in the shape of an `S' for school spirit, mainly for the students in the early grades.

"I am trying to weave all of the different subjects into what we do," said kindergarten teacher Connie Forrester. "Imagine yourself being little and going out the classroom door into this beautiful garden. These are the things you can remember."

Not only will schools use their gardens to teach science lessons, students will also use them to learn math by counting and charting the bird visits, language arts by writing about the birds, and social studies by researching the areas hummingbirds fly through.

At Cotton Belt Elementary, project organizers also plan to incorporate art by having students do drawings and paintings of the garden and hummingbirds. And the media specialist wants the children to do research on the hummingbird and plants the birds like.

"We're looking for ways to give our children some really neat experiences," said Brenda Cason, Northside Elementary program teacher. The Northside project is directed at fourth- and fifth-graders.

"We're really excited about it. We're always wanting to do things not only to beautify our school but to help our kids work with research," Cason said. They expect to have the garden ready for hummingbirds in early April, in time for their major migration. The students will do most of the planting.

Gold Hill Middle School in Fort Mill and Rock Hill High School bring the ideas of the elementary schools to a new level.

Gold Hill will incorporate the hummingbird habitat into core subjects, but beyond the basics the school plans to include the industrial technology class by having its students take pictures. Computer classes will scan and post photos on the Operation RubyThroat Web site. This will allow other schools to see the project and the data Gold Hill has collected.

At Rock Hill High, the AP and IB biology and chemistry classes, mostly seniors, adopted the project, which will include collecting soil samples to prepare the land for planting and learning all they can about hummingbirds. The classes see this project as their legacy.

"It will be something they will be able to come back in a few (years) and see their plants growing," said Cecilia Boles, biology teacher. "It just seems like the more we do, the more we find out we can do."

Jessica Flathmann: (803) 327-8510 or JESSICA FLATHMAN

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