The elementary students simply smiled and giggled as Delia Lister whipped a bird’s wing through the air so they could hear the sound it makes. But they were amazed when she whipped a second wing through the air. This wing was from a predatory bird and the students heard nothing. Mouths gaped open and students asked how that was possible.
Lister is the Director of the Nature Reach Program at Pittsburg State University.
“The Nature Reach program is designed to be a public outreach – we take animals of all kinds to classrooms,” Lister said. “This portion of it is probably the most popular, when we take raptors to schools. It’s one we can do with large groups indoors.”
On Friday morning Lister visited with students at both the Southeast Elementary School and the Southeast Junior High School.
When Lister played a recording of a screech owl a few students covered their ears, but all were in awe.
“A lot of times we’ve been doing a lot of teamwork and cooperation type activities,” said Southeast counselor Jeremy Goode. “We just thought this would be something a little bit different, something interesting that maybe not everyone had been exposed to – new experiences.”
Lister brought several raptors for the students to see, including an American Kestrel, an Eastern Screech Owl, a Barred Owl and a Great Horned Owl. In addition to showing them the difference between the different types of wings, she also showed them a bird’s skull, egg and even tricked one student into holding an owl pellet.
“(The students) like them all, it’s really hard to pick a favorite – they all have their own unique characteristics,” Lister said. “For example, with our Screech Owl, everybody likes him because he’s little. He looks like a little half-point. And our Great Horned Owl is sort of the classic owl that everybody knows and the fact that they eat skunks is pretty unique compared to some of the other animals that are out there.”
Goode said he was impressed with the questions the students had.
Kindergartener Falicia Whalen of Cherokee asked how owls were able to hear since they didn’t have ears.
Lister explained that while owls have large eyes their hearing is better than vision. Lister let Whalen get closer to see the pink slits in the owl’s head.
“She showed me the little flap things that is the owls ears and that those are the ears of the owl and that is how they hear,” Whalen said.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to learn some things about some stuff we might see every day but not really understand,” said Goode. “There would be a lot of interesting things we could do in a smaller group but this is something everyone can experience at once. It’s also a good opportunity to spark an interest in the outdoors.”