Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Red Shouldered Hawk Visits Mary Carr Greer Elementary and We Have a Hawk Party

A little interesting thing happened at school today. I was out on the playground watching some fourth graders play basketball at recess (it was a very nice day in Central Virginia). Suddenly, my walkie talkie crackled to life. Usually it is Dorothy, our office associate, telling me about a phone call or a classroom I need to visit. Instead, I heard this "Mr. Landahl, there is a hawk on top of the flag pole. You should go take a picture of it with your phone." Despite my shock, I hustled to the front of the building as fast as I could to see this hawk.

It was magnificent and was sitting as still as can be on top of our flag pole. Our fifth graders were about fifty feet away running the mile in our bus loop and it was them and our PE teacher Mrs. Bond who first saw it.

So, naturally the next step was that more people needed to get invited to this hawk party. Our fourth graders are in the middle of a learning expedition exploring the return of the bald eagle to Virgina as part of a intensive study of our local ecosystem. I decided to use the walkie talkie again and called to one of the teachers at recess and said, "we have this enormous hawk on the flag pole and it is not really going anywhere. You might want to bring the fourth graders to see it." The response I got was, "ok".

A few minutes later I received another communication from a fourth grade teacher, "is it still there?"

Indeed it was. So, our fifth graders are still running the mile in front of the school and our fourth graders are now walking very quietly to stand and sit in front of the flag pole to watch the hawk.

The above picture only captures a fraction of the kids watching the hawk. As we stood there looking at it, I am sure all of the adults, me included, were starting to wonder, "how long do we stand here looking at this hawk?" The kids were all well behaved and seemed genuinely interesting in this rather majestic creature perched on top of our flag. But shouldn't we get back inside and start doing some work, I am sure crossed more people's minds. Finally, one teacher said," maybe we should wait until the hawk flies away so the kids can see its wingspan in flight."

So we waited some more. Kids still looking at the hawk. A pair of nesting mockingbirds began to fly at the hawk in an attempt to scare it away. We got to watch that for a while.

And then finally the hawk flew away and all the kids cheered for it. It was really quite an unusual, special fifteen minutes.

I am not going to overdo trying to attach some sort of significance to these fifteen minutes. But, the more we get interested in the world outside, the more ready we are to investigate and explore this incredible world outside the school door, the more hawk parties we are probably going to have.

Author's note: when our neighborhood black bear makes his annual visit, we are not going to do the same.


  1. To extend your hawk party check out this site
    I wrote about is on my blog and everyone at our school has been fascinated with watching the baby eagles hatch and develop.

  2. WOW! Talk about a teachable moment! When those kids are our age, they may not remember much about elementary school, but I bet they'll remember being allowed to observe that hawk. With our focus weighing so heavily in the area of standardized testing, I'm afraid we miss out on these moments way too often. On that day, for those moments, you honored the true love of discovery learning.

  3. At this point, it is important to remember about the power of television and media, which can be used for good of people.