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edu180atl: stephen kennedy 8.1.11

Blasts of color, eruptions of wings, unremitting competition! Small or large, no one gives way easily. Everything is at stake. Yellow finches shock the senses. Nuthatches dive down the feeder beak-first. Chickadees, house finches, sparrows swarm the perches like sharks around blood. A mammoth cardinal snatches a sunflower seed, cracks it expertly. The arced metal feeder bar tings. Hummingbirds thrum like wasps. The infrequent redheaded woodpecker appears from nowhere, black and white bars so crisply appointed it’s no wonder the others seem to hang back and watch.

The screen from the breakfast room window has been removed. For purer viewing. Outside: a diminutive ecosystem of wild birds, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, bushes, flowers, flies, mosquitoes, spiders. But feeding and watching the birds – that’s the lesson. Three hummingbird feeders, two regular feeders with black-oil sunflower seed, a birdbath. Through the frame of this window: a universe, a world, a backyard, a classroom, a day, an hour, a minute of viewing. Recent purchase: Nikon binoculars, 10×50. Staggering! Fine grain of feathers, unrepeatable markings of each bird, crack of beaks on seeds, petite feet of colossal cardinals, anxious black eyes.

This birdfeedingviewing is education. I put out seed. Birds arrive, participate, break open shells, eat meat, discard non-meat. They chatter, flap, sing, socialize, jump, watch, disappear. Good for them! At a distance, members of a species are identical. Through the Nikons, wild, gorgeous individuality. The transaction: the more I observe, study, listen, be quiet, the more I learn.

Now, to open the window….

About the Author: Stephen Kennedy is Head of Trinity School, educator of 35 years, father of triplets, wild birdviewer, and an eclectic learner. Follow him on Twitter @StephenGKennedy.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful post, Stephen. What are the Nikon’s of the education wold that help us to see the wild, gorgeous individuality of our students?

    August 1, 2011
  2. So, the birds have different ways of solving the same problem… they all get fed. My take away: as a teacher and learner, I can observe, study, listen, pay attention to the individual characteristics of my students… they will “tell” me how to teach them, how to guide them, and how to celebrate the unique people they are. Thank you for the lovely post! Anna Moore

    August 1, 2011
  3. Maryellen #

    Great way to begin this project. And I love this line: “The transaction: the more I observe, study, listen, be quiet, the more I learn.”

    August 1, 2011
  4. Some years ago I took down the bird feeders on our front porch and nearby trees – too much mess I was told! I think they may be going back up – for this reminds me eloquently of the fascination and charm of the watching moments and the learning moments.

    August 1, 2011
  5. Laura Deisley #

    Stephen,

    Simply lovely. What a beautiful metaphor for us to begin this project. How often do we sit back and observe, with wonder, our students? Our colleagues? In this ecosystem we are so quick to label, indentify, “name.”

    I recall how as a little girl I loved to watch the birds with my dad. Feeders galore, nature walks customary. But, how much was I prone to “blink”–name, label, identify. I wonder how much more we might learn if we linger…

    Linger. I think that is what you have helped me “learn” today.

    August 1, 2011

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  1. edu180atl and the power of words, stories, voices « Toward Wide-Awakeness

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