Peregrine Falcon Nests, Model Bridges: Making Real-World Connections to Classroom Learning

Eighth-grade students at Highlands Middle School are in the know about bridges.

“Every student (in the Introduction to Engineering class) is building a model bridge from balsa wood,” technology education teacher Tom Hauser said. “It’s a great idea for them to take ownership of that project.”

Connecting the project to their classroom/NNYB Outreach

Connecting the project to their classroom/NNYB Outreach

These future engineers and architects are learning about forces at work on a bridge when weight is added, and the difference between suspension (like the George Washington Bridge) and truss (Tappan Zee Bridge).

It’s no wonder the 550 middle school students were ready with questions when the Outreach Team visited their school last month to kick off the theme, “A Solid Foundation,” year two of a five-year educational plan that corresponds with the project’s timetable.

“One of the students asked how much weight the new bridge will hold until it fails,” Hauser said. While that information is top-secret, there were other interesting questions fielded by Team Outreach.

Learning about the new bridge’s location/NNYB Outreach

Learning about the new bridge’s location/NNYB Outreach

That project officials spent more than an hour with the kids heightened their sense of being part of the construction. And the kids are excited, he said. After a weekend, they’ll come into class and say they drove over the bridge, and saw the cross-section of piling at the Outreach Center.

“The New NY Bridge is a once in a lifetime project and we want it to inspire local students at all levels from graduate school and college down to elementary classrooms. The goal of our educational outreach effort at all levels is to use this historic infrastructure project to inspire the next generation of bridge builders here in New York.” — Brian Conybeare, Special Project Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

Since a camera was placed near the Peregrine falcon nest last spring, the kids are getting a kick from watching them, too. “We follow it on the Internet every day, and some kids are monitoring the nest on top of the bridge, waiting for the eggs to hatch in February,” Hauser said.

Screen shot of falcon nest box via specially-placed camera

Screen shot of falcon nest box via specially-placed camera

A 100-foot buffer area around the existing nest box helps protect them during nesting season, which starts in February and ends in August. The nest box will be monitored and maintained at its present location, allowing this pair to remain in the area until a new nest box is constructed in the towers of the new bridge.

“They’re making real-world connections to what they’re learning in school, which will help them decide what career path to choose,” Hauser said. With 1100 companies working on the project, including private and state engineers, “it’s great for the kids to see that level of precision.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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