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Eggs named before they hatch
Fourth-grade class weaves falcon family into lesson plan

05/04/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 A new peregrine falcon family has taken up residence in the nest on the Brady Sullivan Tower in Manchester, where high-def webcams provide audio and video of the couple as they await the hatching of their eggs.

A fourth-grade class at Hooksett Memorial School became so enamored of the falcons, their teacher and others following the birds online conspired to work them into the kids’ lesson plan.
Teacher Donna Amato knew the class was invested in the falcons when they watched as the eggs were being laid.
“First there was one egg and then there were two eggs. Actually, the day she laid her third egg, we saw it live. It was so cute because they all stood up and started clapping, applauding,” Amato said.
With the help of Anne Pardo, an administrative assitant at a local law firm, and Wendy Langelier, a special educator at Campbell High School in Litchfield, Amato came up with a way to involve her students in the current lessons about rivers, erosion and dams by devising a naming scheme for the baby falcons, called eyasses. Both Pardo and Langelier are active members of a Manchester falcon fan club on Facebook and chatters on the YouTube video feed.
First they came up with 11 rivers that had names that could be shortened into nicknames; Baboo for Baboosic or Andi for Androscoggin and so on.
Then, the 22 students paired off with the names and rivers to which they were assigned. 
“The time was so short, but it was amazing to see what they pulled together,” Amato said. “They made up a slogan, and then they did research on the river. Some of them included research on the falcons.”
Some of the slogans included “You should vote for Penny, that’s our two cents,” and “Sensible Swifty would be so nifty!”
Amato said the principal came to watch the presentations. One team wrote and performed a song and interpretive dance as part of their celebration. Some made clever rhymes and others took their presentation very seriously.
“[One girl] took this job so seriously that she dressed up like a little business woman that day to the point where she insisted on wearing these wedge shoes,” Amato said. 
After each team presented, the students voted on which names they liked best. The top four winners were Amos for Amoskeag, Penny for Penacook, Sunny for Suncook and Winni for Winnipesaukee. The plan is for the eyasses to be given those names alphabetically in the order of their birth.
If the firstborn is female, they’ll tweak Amos to be more feminine, like Amosa.
 
Lessons learned
Amato said the project had the desired effect. The students were so excited about the idea of picking names that they absorbed much of what they were being taught at the time.
“They learned — well, most of them did — where the river starts, where the river ends, how long the river is, what it runs through, what it connects to,” Amato said.
The students were able to touch on a bunch of different skills all at once. 
“Part of Common Core is they have to do persuasive arguments,” Langelier said. “They’re learning about New Hampshire, they’re learning how to do a presentation, they’re learning about research.”
Langelier said students could also learn how to have empathy for animals and a greater appreciation and interest in nature.
“Once the babies have fledged, [the students] will probably have their eyes to the sky a lot more,” Langelier said.
Amato said it was so successful she thinks other classrooms might be interested in doing something similar in future springs.
“It was a great experience and  hopefully other classes and kids will want to participate,” Amato said.
 
Background
According to the New Hampshire Audubon, the falcon couple living in the Brady Sullivan Tower nest is not the same couple that was seen there last year. 
Audubon biologist Chris Martin said in an email that both birds are around 4 years old. The male arrived in the area in 2014 and the female came one year later. They are both unbanded so they are not among the many young falcons to have fledged at that nest. Each eyas hatched there (47 over the past 16 seasons) is tagged by the Audubon.
Martin said the first egg is due to hatch on or around May 4.
The live feed on YouTube can be found under the name “Single Digits Live Peregrine Falcon Feed 1.” 





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