Family Fun Science Saturday at UNT to focus on city-dwelling birds

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- American Crows seem to be homebodies. Young crows may stay with their parents for years until they can find homes of their own, and help their parents guard their territories and raise new young.

And killdeers are skilled actors. These birds will pretend to have broken wings to try to lure potential predators away from their nests.

Elementary- and middle-school students will learn many facts like these about birds living in urban areas when they attend "Celebrate Urban Birds," the Family Fun Science Day for September at the University of North Texas' Elm Fork Education Center. The event is being co-sponsored by UNT's Environmental Arts Faculty Group.

Designed for children ages 4-13, "Celebrate Urban Birds" begins at 10 a.m. Sept. 18 (Saturday) at the center, which is in UNT's Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building. The building is located on the northwest corner of Avenue C and West Mulberry Street in Denton (1704 W. Mulberry St.).

The cost is $8 per child, with $1 off admission with donation of a canned food item. Parents will be admitted for free.

The event is being funded through a grant from Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, which provides $250 to $500 to creative projects involving data collection on urban birds, outreach, conservation and the arts. The Environmental Arts Faculty Group was one of only 18 groups that received funding, out of 620 that applied.

During "Celebrate Urban Birds," children will try to spot 12 species of birds selected from a list provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. David Taylor, a lecturer in the UNT Department of English and member of the Environmental Arts Faculty Group, said the chosen birds -- American robin, barn swallow, black-crowned night heron, brown-headed cowbird, Bullock's oriole, house finch, house sparrow, mallard, mourning dove, peregrine falcon and rock pigeon as well as the crow and killdeer -- live in the North Texas region almost all year and so are easy to spot.
"These are birds that kids have seen all their lives, but have probably never really noticed them before," Taylor said. "Our goal is to prove to them that these birds are interesting."

Students and their parents will fill out data sheets about the birds provided by the Lab of Ornithology. They will also help to create an urban bird garden space behind the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, planting annuals and perennials that will attract birds and insects that birds feed on. Each child will receive seeds to plant in their own yards.

In addition, the students will create art and write down words about the individual species of the birds, adding them to 4- to 5-feet long sheets of paper. Each sheet will have a few poetry lines about one of the birds, written by Taylor. The sheets will become one piece of art that will be displayed in the EESAT Building lobby and later in other locations around Denton.

"The first lines of the poems will be just the starting point," said Brian Wheeler, assistant director of the Elm Fork Education Center. "We want the sheets of paper to show not just the diversity of the birds, but also the diversity of the Family Fun Science participants. There may be multiple languages on the paper."

For more information on "Celebrate Urban Birds," contact Alana Presley in the Elm Fork Education Center at 940-369-7956.  

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108