Fort Zumwalt School District at Busch Conservation Area

By Dana Ripper
We recently had the pleasure of being part of a five-day series of field trips at Busch Conservation Area for the gifted students of the Fort Zumwalt School District.  The students who attended are part of the school district’s Journeys into Expanded Thinking (JET) program.  Last week’s field experience was an integral part of the classes’ Nature Unleashed curriculum, the MDC’s progressive Discover Nature Schools program for elementary schools.  The JET faculty, Sara Place, Beth Allen, Karen Battle, and Jeanette Kell, have very successfully implemented Nature Unleashed.  This was evident by the merit of the field inquiry activities organized for the students, and the quality of student participation. 
Ethan bands and measures a Northern Cardinal
while St. Peters students and teachers look on. 
For our part, from 10:30 to 12:30 each day, we provided first through fifth grade JET students with up-close-and-personal views of resident and migratory birds.  The students asked excellent questions and were remarkably well-versed in science, ecology, and even ornithology.  We hope they enjoyed being with us as much as we enjoyed having them.
As it turned out, we color-banded birds that frequent the Busch CA feeders.  We did not originally intend to make Busch part of our Backyard Banding color-marking program, but this developed as a possibility when we were treated to some of Missouri’s tempestuous, unpredictable fall weather.  We set up nets at feeders near the main building and at an unusual set of feeders located behind a viewing blind in the woods.  These set-ups permitted us to be constantly vigilant at the nets, extracting birds seconds after they were trapped and processing them quickly.  It turned out to be an excellent system, allowing us to not only have several birds for each group of St. Peters students, but also to engage future Busch CA visitors in color-band resighting activities.  
While at Busch we also had the privilege of working with another superior MDC Education Consultant, Nancy Snider. Nancy, who has experience color-banding birds during an Illinois research project, was provided with our resighting data sheets and instructions for visitors.  She will be posting these items in the viewing area at Busch; hopefully, during winter visitors will enjoy observing some of the 41 birds we banded! These included 7 American Goldfinches, 4 Black-capped Chickadees, 17 Dark-eyed Juncos, 2 House Finches, 8 Tufted Titmice, 5 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 White-crowned Sparrow, and 1 Downy Woodpecker.
Many thanks to Jeanette Kell for inviting us to be a part of the students’ Journey into Expanded Thinking!!

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