Using Technology in Designing a Hawk Migration Curriculum: A Young Teacher’s Journey
Kirsten Fuller’s interest in birds began while being homeschooled. Her mother was interested in birds and the natural world, so she designed Kirsten’s curriculum around environmental science and ecology. Both participated in the Cornell University Citizen Scientist Project called “FeederWatch”, which required the identification of birds that visited their home birdfeeder for Cornell’s data base. This interest continued with an ornithology course at Rowan University, and introduced Kirsten to employment opportunities in the field of ornithology. After graduating, her first internship was with New Jersey Audubon at the Cape May Bird Observatory (http://www.njaudubon.org) where she educated children and adults about birds. This internship was followed up at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (www.hawkmountain.org), in Kempton, Pennsylvania. In this position, she designed an educational curriculum that highlighted scientific data collected on Broad-winged Hawks; and ultimately solidified her passion for birds of prey. What would be more satisfying, however, was participation in a real scientific study. This opportunity would become available with an organization called The Peregrine Fund (www.peregrinefund.org).
During her internship at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, her studies focused on a species of hawk called the Broad-winged Hawk. These birds are local residents of eastern deciduous forests during their breeding period, and are known for spending the rest of the year undertaking a 10,000-mile migration to South America (See picture). This made them an ideal subject for a multi-dimensional study curriculum. Scientists at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary researched the specific movements of these birds by attaching tracking devices to the backs of thirteen birds (See picture). Currently, the research activity focuses primarily on the ecology of the hawk during its migration. Google Earth Pro is used to analyze this scientific data by helping plot where the migrating birds are found during these months. Kirsten went on to use the data collected by these tracking devices to create a STEM curriculum for high school students.
Though curriculum is primarily science-based, it has the potential for extensions into other STEM areas as physics, math, and engineering. Extension activities using physics and engineering practices were developed with her supervising professor at Rowan University, Dr. Issam Abi-El-Mona. One extension includes using engineering practices to design model airplanes, mimicking the wing design of different species of birds. For example, an airplane designed with long, wide wings for soaring, like a Broad-winged Hawk would be tested against an airplane designed with pointed wings for diving at fast speeds, like a peregrine falcon. Besides understanding the physics of Bernoulli’s Principle, students would need to collect mathematical data as evidence of their interpretation of the Structure & Function [NGSS Cross Cutting Concept] of a bird’s wing. Kirsten has aligned the curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards to make it easier for teachers to implement in their classrooms. In fact, she plans to pilot this curriculum in her own student teaching this fall.
As Kirsten gained experience with researching birds, she quickly realized that in order for her to teach this science, she would benefit from even more experience. An opportunity arose for her to work for The Peregrine Fund, an organization that conducts avian conservation studies worldwide. Her project focused on an endangered species called the Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned Hawk in the central mountain region in Puerto Rico, and so that is where she went this summer. This was a much different experience than her previous internships because it involved professional field research. Within this project, she acquired many new science skills and conducted actual nest observations of this species throughout their breeding cycle in Puerto Rico. An adventure she will always remember, Kirsten plans a future that will include attending graduate school so she may continue her interest in ornithology.
By Linda Burroughs
Vice President / Central Region NJSTA
Science Education Specialist
Kirsten Fuller is 24 and a 2015 graduate of Rowan University with a BS in Biology and a BA in secondary education this December 2017. Since 2015, she has been employed by several conservation organizations, notably the New Jersey Audubon, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and the Peregrine Fund. This fall she is student teaching at Atlantic City High School to complete her teaching certificate.
She can be reached at Kirstenafuller@gmail.com for more information on her Broad-winged Hawk curriculum for interested teachers. She is also available to speak to a class in person. Check out www.hawkmountain.org, www.njaudubon.org, and www.peregrinefund.org for more information about the organizations where she interned. See also http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects/clo/PFW for FeederWatch.