The Rural School Collaborative works throughout the United States. One of their projects is awarding small grants to rural schools. Alabama has been fortunate to receive a number of these grants. (Editor’s note: I serve on the board of this organization.)
Pisgah High is a recent grant winner. Teacher Brad Moore received a $1,000 2017-18 Grants in Place award for Eagles Working for Wood Ducks, a project to teach students construction, conservation, chemistry, ecology, and public relations skills. The program is placing wood duck nesting boxes, constructed by the students, on local cattle farm ponds while measuring water conditions. This involves, but is not limited to nest box construction, contacting local landowners about placement of boxes, installing and maintaining boxes, and monitoring water pH conditions and chemical make-up.
(For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of riding thousands and thousands of miles of Alabama back roads as I have, Pisgah is a speck of a community in eastern Jackson County, one of the most scenic counties in the state. It is just off Highway 71 about midway between Dutton and Rosalie Eagles is the high school mascot)
Brad Moore explains the project:
Eagles Working for Wood Ducks (EWWD) is a program that is constructing, erecting, monitoring, and maintaining wood duck nesting structures across the Pisgah community. By partnering with local farmers, land owners, and local park committees, we are insuring the increased wildlife viewing opportunities for our entire community. The whistling wings and haunting call of the female wood duck has long been absent from our community. Behavioral Science studies have shown that time spent outdoors lowers stress levels and blood pressure. There is something soothing and relaxing in nature. We hope to give the residents of our community an added incentive to take advantage of the beautiful region where we live. Wood duck nesting boxes are just one example of the way that we can help conserve our natural resources for future enjoyment.
The Agrisciences classes at Pisgah High School purchased enough 1”x12” western cedar boards to construct 25 wood duck nesting boxes. These boxes are distributed to local land owners, as well as the Alabama Department of Conservation of Natural Resources who erects, manages, maintains, and monitors the nesting boxes throughout the year to insure that the nest box is ready to be occupied each spring.
Students learned about construction and wood duck ecology through the EWWD program. A total of 131 students spent time in the shop and classroom, learning about both the necessity and the ease of actually lending a helping hand to animals. Due to the extensive logging of the early 1900’s, many trees which served as nesting sites for wood ducks were cut. Wood duck numbers plummeted. Wood duck nesting boxes are just one example of how we can help conserve our natural resources.
(Another editor’s note: To me this is education in its purest form. Engaging young people in something they can relate to. Giving them a deeper understanding of where their roots are and the things that shaped their ancestors who came before them. And I guarantee that years from now when these youngsters gather for a class reunion, not a one of them will remember who wrote a textbook they studied in high school and whose software they had on their computer–but every single on of them will remember buildomg boxes for wood ducks.).