On Monday, Trish O'Kane led a bird-scouting expedition into Warner Park. Her party included six students from Sherman Middle School, paired with environmental studies students from the UW-Madison.
The long-envisioned partnership (see "Bless the Birds and Children," 11/19/09) is designed to get the middle school kids excited about wildlife in their neighborhood. But O'Kane, a UW grad student, says the college students are learning too: "My [UW] students had never been in the park. So the Sherman kids were able to tell them some things about the park. The mentoring works both ways."
The group is scheduled to meet each Monday. Over the course of the semester, the middle school students will keep a field journal and learn to identify 30 birds by sight and sound, aided by birding books and websites.
On the first outing, for which six students showed up, the group saw sandhill cranes and great blue herons. It's too early to know how many kids the program will ultimately pull in. "Next week, we could have five or 25," says O'Kane. "We'll work with whatever kids want to learn."
Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway is thrilled with the collaboration: "It's an example of someone in the neighborhood who is engaging with the school, helping to give the kids a positive activity and finding a creative use for the park."