Garden addition has Millersburg Elementary singing the blue(bird)s

Garden addition has Millersburg Elementary singing the blue(bird)s
Dave Mast

Millersburg Elementary teacher Lynda Park, left, and Ohio certified volunteer naturalist Pat Dutton get ready to place a camera inside the newly placed bluebird house at the school. The camera will allow staff and students to view everything taking place inside the house.


The sights and sounds of nature continue to crop up around the grounds of Millersburg Elementary. The newest addition to the Garden of Hope and the butterfly garden on the school grounds is now a bluebird box project that includes a newly created bluebird house with a camera installed that will allow the students to track the progress of what will hopefully be the next bluebird family to call it home.

The bluebird box project started when teacher Lynda Park contacted Ohio certified volunteer naturalist Pat Dutton, a member of the Ohio Bluebird who had spoken previously at the school, and Dutton informed her of the bluebird project.

In order to bring in the box, Park had to write a grant requesting one be built. She said she felt as though the idea of following the progress of a bluebird family would be exciting for her intervention kids to watch take place.

“Over the past year, everything has been such doom and gloom, and we have all been so separated from each other that I felt it would be nice to offer the kids something positive to interact with and to watch firsthand that would be full of life and inspiring,” Park said.

On Tuesday, March 23, Dutton and her husband David showed up to connect with Park and erect the bluebird box, which was placed on the hillside on the north side of the school grounds.

The Millersburg Elementary site is being used as a test site for the program.

“This is a program we are introducing through the Ohio Bluebird Association,” Pat Dutton said. “Virginia had something very similar to this where they are putting cameras in bird boxes near schools so kids can watch the progress, so we thought it was a great idea, and Millersburg is one of the very first schools to have this program installed. This is a pilot program.”

Dutton said the first box was installed at a school in Columbus, and they continue to work out the bugs.

The OBA is donating all of the equipment for the boxes they install and also will pay for each school to store the video footage on Ring for the first year. Thereafter, Dutton said either the OBA board or the school could obtain a small grant to pay the annual $30 storage fee.

The bluebird box comes with solar-powered batteries and an in-box camera that will allow the staff to log on to the website and have their students view the progress of whatever is taking place inside the box. One of the few restrictions is the box had to be built within Wi-Fi range because it is wireless.

Dutton said while it would be ideal for a bluebird family to move into the box and make it their home, it is possible another species could call it home including wren families. Should a sparrow family move in, Dutton said she would come back and safely remove the birds so a proper species could move in.

With the birdbox now in place, it is simply a matter of figuring out the best procedure to share the video and photos with the students. The Ring camera takes 30-second videos whenever action takes place within the box, and it will send alerts to Park, who can then share that with other staff members.

What should be fun is providing a chance to show the students the growth and progress of a family of birds.

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity for the kids to see what happens as it happens,” Park said. “We read stories to our kids about birds building a nest and feeding, but this is a firsthand chance to see how birds actually act in their nest. There are a lot of educational opportunities that come with this program.”

Dutton said she will remain in close contact with Park concerning the progress the school is making because that information will be invaluable to the OBA making changes and moving forward with the program.

Dutton said on behalf of the OBA, the program provides a chance to reach out to a younger generation, and the hope is that will generate plenty of excitement in children to get involved with birding and nature and any cavity nester.

“It’s a fun project, and we are hoping to get more schools involved,” said Dutton, who first met Park when she served as a substitute teacher at Clark Elementary and then again when Dutton came to make a presentation on monarch butterflies two years ago. “I know Lynda is excited about nature and promoting outdoor learning opportunities to her classroom, so when we started talking about this as something we could pursue, I immediately thought of her.”

With Millersburg Elementary now boasting the bluebird house project to go with the existing butterfly habitat and the Garden of Hope, the school continues to utilize nature as a way to promote education.

"These create some wonderful hands-on lessons teachers can use, and it is fun for the kids," Park said. "We are so grateful to team up with Pat and the organization because they are able to provide resources that are far beyond anything we could hope to have here at school."

Dutton said hopefully the box will host a spring family of bluebirds as well as another one in the summer before being taken down over the winter.

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