For a Fleeting Moment, Dead Birds Hold the Kids’ Interest

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I read a story in today’s Gazette about a massacre of cedar waxwings. It was a sad day at a local school when a flock of dozens of the songbirds crashed into large windows after being pursued by a hawk.

Bill Danielson, who writes a column called “Speaking of Nature” explained how the students were agitated over the scores of dead birds and persistently kept telling him he had to go see them. They went out with a bucket to find many of the little birds dead, but others banged up and appearing to have survived. In the carnage they managed to find six survivors, and “for the first time in many years I was dealing with genuine interest from these kids, so I abandoned all of the plans I had for the day and focused on the birds.”

As Danielson began to explain that the waxwings were feeding on ornamental crab apple trees in the courtyard, and tried to interest students in a discussion on ecology, he lost them again. “Two minutes had gone by and about half the class had already lost interest.” Sigh.

After the bell rang, and he ‘had to return to his regular job of trying to distract them and prevent them from either breaking somthing or injuring one another,” he went back out to survey the dead. There were 37 dead and one more straggling survivor, who he added to his glass waxwing hospital.

At the story’s end, there was a glimmer of hope. Danielson brought the aquarium full of healed waxwings back to the classroom, and saw that there was a flock of them gathering outside. So he opened the tank and the little patients happily joined the flock and the kids cheered.