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Raptors in the City
Technology Connects Kids with Nature
What's the fastest creature on earth? What species has recovered from the brink of extinction? What cliff-dwelling raptor has adapted to city life and is moving onto skyscrapers across North America? If you answered the peregrine falcon, you're right! This glamorous speedster is the subject of an environmental education and technology program called "Raptors in the City". The peregrine falcon was removed from the List of Endangered Species in 1999, one of the great success stories in the field of wildlife conservation. Because the cliff-dwelling peregrine has adapted to city life (nesting on skyscrapers) it is the perfect vehicle to connect kids with wildlife. Raptors in the City uses the internet and print materials to make the connection. Live "Falcon Cameras" mounted on skyscrapers allow young scientists to follow the drama of nesting season up close and personal. Raptors in the City is underway in a variety of classroom and afterschool settings across the country. The program is an educational success and a hit with the kids. "It has everything that kids love," says teacher Deborah Mathies, creator of the program, "-- the intrigue of courtship, life and death battles (the peregrine is a fierce predator), plus cute fluffy chicks." The program is rich in educational content with many cross-curricular applications. (Math question: how fast can a peregrine travel the distance of a football field at top speed? Answer: one second!) The peregrine is proving to be a species that city kids can call their own - a creature that escaped extinction (it was actually extinct east of the Mississippi River 30 years ago), the fastest creature on earth that soars among the skyscrapers. Raptors in the City was designed for ease of use, even for computer challenged teachers and mentors. "Basically, you just add kids," says Mathies. The children are assigned tasks to research, both on the internet and in books, and they earn rewards for their work. But the greatest reward is watching the drama of family life as it happens on camera. "Courting" usually begins in late winter, hatching in spring, and the chicks take their first flight in early summer. Chicks are banded and continue to be followed. Since peregrine means "wanderer" the birds are tracked all over North America, and a bird from Canada may move onto a skyscraper in Detroit. It's all part of the drama. Raptors in the City has applications in the library, classroom, afterschool or homeschool program. It teaches the lesson of endangered species from the positive perspective that species can be helped and saved. It also teaches a gamut of environmental, biological, and technological lessons, as well as research skills and is based on national science and technology standards. A complete study package for peregrine research consisting of assignments, evaluation tools and rewards, and a resource book is available. The ultimate aim of the program is to encourage children to care about the future of all species. Many children are already raptor fans. Raptors in the City is capturing their interest in the majestic peregrine falcon that rules city skies. The goal of the program is to encourage children to look up as they walk in their neighborhoods and learn about things that are wild in the city.
Contact: Deborah Mathies
Teacher and Program Director
258 Mountain Rd.
Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY 12520