After weeks of anticipation, the 68-acre campus of Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw is alive with the chirps of dozens of newly hatched baby bluebirds.
Thanks to a relatively new program at the school, students have been front and center in supporting the bluebirds and witnessing the entire hatching process.
After decades of Eastern bluebird population decline because of habitat destruction, use of pesticides and introduction of non-native species, conservation efforts have reversed that decline, according to a news release from Mount Paran. And the school’s placement of nest boxes on its campus, as well as the development of its bluebird nesting program, are efforts to keep up the “positive momentum of stabilizing the bluebird population,” the release said.
MPCS deployed its own nesting boxes on campus during the 2018-19 school year. In 2020-21, the bluebird nesting program grew to include seven nesting boxes on campus — one for each grade level from preschool age 3 through fifth grade. The boxes are placed in various locations around campus on the MPCS Bluebird Trail.
“The MPCS Bluebird Trail creates an awareness that allows our students to be purposeful in caring for God’s precious creatures and the environment, while gaining an understanding that all of us have the ability and responsibility to make contributions in caring for this world,” said Tina Baker, lower school administrator and lower school academic technology specialist.
The goal of the program, the school says, is for each grade level to monitor their own nesting box. Third graders oversee a nesting box outfitted with a webcam. The hope is that the nesting boxes attract bluebird pairs to the campus.
Students in the lower school observe the birds and are educated on the risks to the bluebird population, as well as how ecological impacts affect the environment.
School officials say local partner and Master Gardener Jim Beardan, founder of Green Meadows Preserve Park Blue Bird Trail on the 112-acre west Cobb Green Meadows Preserve park, helped MPCS install its first three nesting boxes in the spring of 2019. The school received a grant from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation to provide for the nesting boxes and the expansion of the lower school garden.
Twelve baby bluebirds and four Carolina Chickadees hatched during the inaugural year. In the 2020-21 school year, lower school students welcomed 11 baby bluebirds, five Carolina Chickadees, and two Carolina wrens.
In spring 2020, the program began to allow interested fifth graders to serve as mentors to younger students. Students were chosen through an application process managed by fifth grade teacher Shannon Howard.
The fifth grade bluebird mentor program was postponed this season due to COVID restrictions.
As the program gains momentum each school year, the goal is to further integrate the nesting boxes into the lower school curriculum, school officials say.
“Students will continue contributing to scientific research on bluebird populations as they report their observations and data to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s nationwide NestWatch program, whose goal is to track trends in the reproductive biology of birds,” the release said. “Observations will be added to those of thousands of other NestWatchers in a continually growing database used by researchers to understand and study birds.”
MPCS says its program has managed to help increase the local bluebird population, bring awareness to environmental concerns and “demonstrate that everyone can make a difference.” Families, the school says, can start by adding a nesting box to their yard.
To learn more about the bluebird program at Mount Paran Christian School or how to build a nesting box, visit mtparanschool.com/bluebirds.