Good evening fellow eagleaholics!
As the resident teacher/mod (and the keeper of all the rulers 😉 ), I was asked to do a guest blog about how this cam has enriched my students’ lives and how it has changed how I teach my students.
For the past two years, I have taught English language learner students. They vary in their ability to speak English fluently…some not at all and some very well. However, their level of speaking English does not deter them from wanting to learn and to inquire about things. They have a natural sense of curiosity and I knew I had to “tap” into that to help them be successful.
I introduced my students to this eagle cam last year and I knew I wanted to continue that this year because I had made an amazing discovery last year. When the cam was on after I was done teaching and while the students were working, they were more focused and got more work done. I believe the sounds of nature were soothing to them and as they worked they would glance up at the screen to see what the eagles were up to.
This year was the first year I had some kindergarten students who came to school speaking no English. They were all very quiet and didn’t participate in class much at all. I remember going through various resources I had and talking to other teachers for ideas on strategies I could try because I felt I wasn’t reaching them and it felt like I was failing them. As the year went on and they were learning more English, they would talk some in class but were still rather shy. When this eagle cam came up, I again put it on for my students to watch while they were working. I was wondering how my students who spoke limited English would react. The way their eyes lit up the first time they saw the eagles is something I will never forget. They started pointing at the cam and saying small phrases in English, talking to each other frantically about what they were seeing. I explained to them that this was a bald eagle and decided right then to teach them about the eagles.
Every day after that when I would get those students they would ask, “Eagles?” Many times when we watched, BBC’s cam gnome would pan for us and show us closeups of Arky, Dakota, and Skye, zoom in on “Goose Island” or pan and take us on a tour of the neighborhood. Their squeals of delight when they saw those things were like music for the soul. They worked harder and were more engaged than I’d ever seen them and when I showed them the book about bald eagles I was going to read to them they could hardly sit still in their chairs.
The charts below show my kindergarten students’ learning and are called K-W-L charts. K=what they already know about a topic, W=what they want to learn about a topic and L=what they learned about a topic. We filled out the K and the W parts of the chart before I read the book to them. I was amazed at some of the questions they thought of. After reading the book, we filled out the L part of the chart to see if what we read confirmed what we thought we knew and/or if we learned something new. I was blown away by their responses to what they learned. The one that hit home to me most was the response “Bald eagles are beautiful.” It took me a minute before I could respond to the little girl. I smiled at her child like wonder, the way her eyes sparkled when she said it. “Yes, sweetheart, they sure are!” I told her.
Without BBC, our amazing eagle family, our awesome mods and our wonderful chatters who keep this a family and kid friendly site this would not have been possible. My students got to experience and witness a gift and a miracle of nature that they would never have been able to experience otherwise and I am very grateful.
Sometimes, teachers can get so bogged down in state assessments and teaching curriculum that we forget that we should really be teaching students. What my students learned might not be able to be measured on a state assessment but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they learned. They not only learned about the magnificent, majestic bald eagle, they also learned confidence in their ability to speak English, how to ask questions, and to share what they learned with their peers. I also learned something about myself as a teacher. My students reminded me to take a step back and teach like they learn….through excitement and wonder. Opening up their eyes to the wonder and miracles that are found in nature every day opened up my eyes to the true teaching and learning that can take place when we look at the world through the eyes of a child.