National Expert Leads Pierce Middle School Birding Day
Editor and author Bill Thompson III participated in Pierce Middle School's Birding Day, an event organized by science teacher Jeff Stoodt and partially funded by the Milton Foundation for Education.
As 22 Pierce Middle School students, clutching birding guidebooks and binoculars looked on, a Baltimore Oriole continued construction on a nest in the Blue Hills Reservation’s Fowl Meadow.
A short time later, Bill Thompson III, a national birding expert and author of the student’s reference book, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, used a smart phone to play the calls of the Yellow Warbler and Cat Bird that were just out of view, along the trail.
Thompson, an Ohio resident and the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest and the author of several books, including the recently released The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America, was in Milton for Pierce Middle School’s Birding Day.
Over the course of the day, all of the students in the Neptune Team, about one third of the Pierce Middle School’s sixth grade class, joined Thompson, teachers and other volunteers in the Blue Hills for a nature hike and bird watching tutorial.
Pierce science teacher Jeff Stoodt organized the event, securing a Milton Foundation for Education grant to purchase binoculars. Stoodt’s wife, Lisa White, also attended the event Tuesday. White is an editor for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which donated copies of Thompson’s book to each student.
Thompson said Stoodt asked him to speak to his sixth graders, and with access to the Blue Hills and the MFE grant, the classroom visit became a short field trip.
While traveling around the country, Thompson is often asked to speak or lead birding walks.
“I feel like I’m paying it forward,” Thompson said.
Thompson explained that he developed an interest in nature, specifically birds, as child.
“When I was a kid I had an adult who was my birding mentor,” Thompson said.
Now, Thompson is sharing his interest and knowledge with young birders in what he calls the “Golden Age of Bird Watching.” The access to field guides and handheld technology, like the smart phone application he uses to identify different bird calls, provide beginners with the information to become educated quickly.
While technology can help birders, it can also keep students in front of a computer or television and not outdoors.
“My kids don’t ever have to go outside if they don’t want to,” Thompson said, explaining the importance of introducing children to wonder of nature.
Thompson hopes that Tuesday’s Birding Day will serve as a gateway to a life of enjoying the outdoors.
“Birds are an easy doorway to nature,” Thompson said.