HAVERHILL, Mass. — The idyllic setting of Tattersall Farm became a living classroom for a group of fourth-graders from the Tilton Elementary School.

Members of the Mass Audubon Society gave students lessons on how to identify birds and what birds eat. The children played a bird migration game and also learned that for migrating birds, the journey can be treacherous.

The field trip was suggested to the Tilton Elementary School by Alex Ponder, development director for the historic Tattersall Farm, which dates back to 1757.

She reached out to the school that is fairly close to the farm and one fourth-grade class led by teacher Chantal Alder was selected to participate.

On the morning of Friday, Oct. 20, children poured out of a bus after it arrived at the farm. Each child carried a wooden birdhouse that trustees of the farm had dropped off at their school for students to paint.

Art teacher Liz Kilday gave her students free reign to use whatever colors and decorative patterns they chose.

“I let them be as creative as they wanted,” Kilday said.

The wooden birdhouses, built by trustee Tony Radanovics, will be mounted to poles that will be placed throughout the 85-acre working farm by volunteers.

Children plan to return to the farm in the spring to see what nested in their little homes.

Long before they visited the farm, Alder’s students were given bird guide books by trustees and have been using them to identify and catalog birds in their yards and wherever they travel.

“The kids were so excited to get the books and we also read a story called ‘The Bird House,’ ” Alder said. “As I read it the children listened for names of birds they heard in the story. They absolutely loved it.”

After arriving at the farm, children broke out into three groups. Each rotated through learning stations manned by Gerry Gillette, Terry Kuhlmann, Lauren Sadowski, Johanna True and Jen Erbe, all from Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center on Plum Island.

At the introduction to birds and binoculars station manned by Sadowski, children attached Velcro tags with the names of each part of the bird to a poster of a song bird.

“I can’t wait to see birds through the binoculars,” fourth-grader Jonathan Flores said after attaching his tag noting the bird’s feet.

He soon got his wish. After a quick lesson in the use of binoculars, children scanned the trees and the sky.

“I see kids in our class and I see little tomatoes,” said Enzo Mera as he pointed his binoculars in the direction of the farm’s community garden, where other children were learning about sources of food for birds.

Gaby Pedersen said she has been using her guide book, but so far has not matched any bird she has seen to images in the book.

“I keep trying,” Gaby said.

At the bird migration station manned by True, children played a game in which they either migrated successfully or ended their journey in tragedy. They rolled the dice and walked along a series of more than 20 placards attached to the ground. One placard read, “Watch out! Power lines ahead. Don’t hit them! Crawl ahead five feet them move to station 2.”

After making their way through hazards ranging from predators to storms to sudden freezes to jet planes, a fateful roll of the dice ended the migration for a few unfortunate teams.

“We didn’t make it,” said Camila Cuevas. “We got shot by a BB.”

“Our bird was eaten by a cat,” announced Will Gingrass. “I feel bad. Our luck was terrible.”

“This game mimics reality,” True told the children. “These things really happen to birds.”

True asked the children what they could do to help birds survive a migration.

“We could set up feeders and provide food for birds,” said Shilyn Guzman.

At a third and final station, Kuhlmann and her group circled the farm’s fenced-in community garden looking for sources of food for birds.

She pointed to a patch of weeds and flowers where thistle grows and explained that beneath the prickly exterior you can find seeds that goldfinch in particular enjoy.

“How do they get at the seeds,” Kuhlmann asked.

“With their beaks,” student Jean Almonte responded.

After children completed their nature lessons, Alder gathered them together and announced it was one of the best field trips she’d ever been on, then thanked Ponder for arranging it.

As children boarded the bus, they were handed apples and cold bottles of water.

Trustee John Cleary said he and his fellow trustees always are eager to open the farm to students.

“We love to get them involved in learning,” he said.


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Information from: The Eagle-Tribune, http://www.eagletribune.com