Bird Sleuth: Chapter 2

After weeks of often interrupted effort, snow, sleet and hail held off for Bird Sleuth's grand finale on Friday, March 21st.  Bird Sleuth, an educational tool box designed by Cornell's Lab of Ornithology is a project managed under Avain Adventures, a BRDC program.  Eight study groups from two Grayson County High School classrooms offered their presentations to each other, their teachers, and a delegation of school dignitaries.  Ms. Greif made the celebratory cake seen above.  And below, we observe the students working on their presentations.

The work process combined indoor research and outdoor observation and experimentation.  Each group followed through on their question and hypothesis, and after collecting enough data to either support or negate their educated guess, they then began work on their final product...the presentation. Among the study topics were comparisons of bird eyes to human eyes (most avian bird vision is superior to human), choices birds made on food offerings (difficult to assess due to the aforementioned weather interruptions and mammal disturbances to the feeders), what causes lie behind same sex behavior in birds (found to be mostly normal), and do birds have bellybuttons (only in the egg sac).  What always needs to be understood under the scientific method is:  all results are of value, regardless of whether the hypothesis is proven or not.  The absence of data is data.  There are no 'right' answers.

All but one presentation was delivered through PowerPoint.  The group above chose to create a poster with hand drawn pictures of the focus birds.  Michael is the artist, seen at the left.

In the educational tradition of BRDC, journaling and sketching as documentation tools were was spending as much time outdoors as possible.  The group below is studying a song sparrow and its flight style (as compared to the black vulture).  Both species were commonly seen on or above the school campus, and provided strong comparisons between a bird with small wings and one with large wings.

 So, on Friday, it all came together.  Shannon Holdaway (school board member), Stephen Cornett (

Director of Instruction and Assessment), Brandi M.Ray (principal of GCHS) and Kevin Chalfant (Grayson County School Superintendent) made up our delegation of dignitaries, and we were all pleased that they had and made the time to be there!  Mr. Cornett converses with Allen (student) below.

Again, we wish first to thank the teachers who were willing to share their classrooms with us...Deborah Greif, Becky Absher and Kathy Davis, along with back-up from Sheila Jones.  From BRDC, besides myself, we had support through our volunteer in Carol Broderson and guide Sarah Osborne.  A huge gratitude goes to the Jack Matthews Foundation for their trust in BRDC through generous funding.  And finally, THANKS, KIDS!  You were great.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts

Executive Director

Blue Ridge Discovery Center