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Sandy Journal

Glacier Hills third-graders learn stewardship lesson by repurposing plastic bottles

Nov 03, 2022 07:11PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In Glacier Hills third-grader Lillian Larkin’s backyard, it’s all a flutter.

“It’s all colorful; we have birds that are blue, black, orange, even some with red,” she said.

Classmate Lily Robbins also said “there are lots of birds eating birdseed” in her backyard.

This fall, some house finches, chickadees and woodpeckers may be a little happier, thanks to some Glacier Hills third-graders who repurposed empty plastic bottles to create birdfeeders.

It wasn’t simply coloring a plastic bottle with a marker, adding a bamboo stick for a perch and hanging it in the backyard as a school craft. The birdfeeders tied into a cross-curricular lesson from science and English-language arts curriculum, said third-grade teacher Lisa Moon.

“We study the impact humans have on the earth and learn resources available to us and what we can do to have less of an impact on the earth through recycling, reusing and repurposing things,” she said. “We wanted to make that connection. We also read an argumentative text about national parks, should they be closed to outside use or stay the same. We looked at how we access the parks and the impact we have on it and the importance of wildlife. It reflected back to that standard in science about how humans have an impact on the environment.”

Initially, Moon said the students were all for protecting the wildlife habitat over everything else.

“They’re all about animals at this age, but the more we got into the text and discussion, the more they realized the complexity of the issue,” she said. “They’re learning there are different sides of the story or issue. They were all for the animals, but then I asked them to think about camping, riding an ATV and hiking in the national parks because if it’s all animals, then this could affect your family’s ability to go do things in a park. It did give them a moment to pause and consider the fact that this was not just a question of animals or not the animals, but the fact that these were activities that families also enjoy, so they did see the other side of the coin.”

Moon also said they talked about for some people, it may be their livelihood.

“We talked about some people wanting access to Sequoia for lumber; it’s their jobs. We also talked about adding fees for people who want to do certain activities, but then, there was an issue of accessibility and affordability for everyone and that’s what the parks are billed as, the people’s parks. We discussed how it's more than just a yes or no answer sometimes and you have to see a lot of different sides; it's not as cut and dried and easy as an answer as they might have thought,” she said.

Even after the discussion, third-grader Scoty Pununu was all for “wanting to keep the parks for the animals. I want to help the birds get food with the bird feeders and make the world a better place. We read about the Sequoias in California and they’re as big as school buses, so I don’t want those to come home and lose all the animals’ homes. I know we can use the wood, but we can get it somewhere other than a national park.”

The school lesson also extended to learning how to organize and write an opinion paper and drawing from the articles they read.

“We discussed then that one of the purposes of the parks is to protect and support different species of animals and so with these bird feeders in our own neighborhoods, we’re helping the wild animals and we’re making these bird feeders out of something that often times are thrown away or recycled,” she said. “It’s a fun way that we can support the purposes of the parks and help with wildlife habitat while giving a second use to the plastic bottles.”

Third-grader Penelope Lochhead was hoping her Gatorade bottle birdfeeder will attract a lot of feathered friends.

“I’m drawing leaves on it so the birds will come to it and not to just a plastic bottle,” she said. “I like animals and want to be a veterinarian when I grow up. I like doing this and learned we need to do what we can to protect our wildlife.”

Moon said it was important that the students were making a connection between what they were learning in class to the real world.

“Any time we can make connections to what they're seeing and hearing about in their homes and in society, it's important,” she said. “It gives them relevance to their learning that you can't get any other way.”