Elizabeth isn’t exactly where you think of, when you imagine a pair of peregrine falcons nesting, but it is. They’re on the roof of the city’s courthouse, and they’re being streamed live on Union County’s Falcon Cam.
“They’re able to see the life cycle of a falcon. They’ll start nesting at the end of March, beginning of April, and that mother will sit on her eggs. You can watch those eggs hatch in about 32 days. Children are amazed to find out that these birds are actually are living in their own backyard. So who would think you have a species that’s endangered. There’s I think 70 birds in state of New Jersey as of right now,” said Stephanie DAlessio, director of education at the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
“I think the real cool thing, especially about urban areas, it’s hard to find a link where falcons really thrive, in urban areas and open areas because they are really dependent on what type of prey is there. In urban areas there’s lots of prey and they are a great species to control some pest species that we have like pigeons, starlings and other black birds,” said Ben Wurst, habitat program manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation.
The Falcon Cam is one of only two located in New Jersey. The Conserve Wildlife Foundation is now holding training workshops to teach teachers how to add the Falcon Cam into their curriculum.
“I think today in such a technological age, you know, getting any kid, even my own kids, off the phones or iPads or whatever is important. And using a tool like a camera, you know to help engage them, and to possibly care, or even just learn more about the species is important. Using that digital technology like that is definitely a way to do it,” Wurst said.
Educators can stream the live video into their classrooms, teaching students firsthand the importance of protecting endangered species.
“You know kids today aren’t getting out and exploring much, and so I think if I can bring that into the classroom it’ll give them an experience that they may not have had on their own,” said AnneMarie Lawrence, third grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Westfield.
“We’ll do reading, books based on birds, writing, keeping a journal, science, the STEM lessons that go along with the bird boxes and the children really enjoy it, and its all aligned to our curriculum in our state standards,” said Lincoln Early Childhood Center teacher Linda Steele.
“It’s really important for us to learn about wildlife, and also it’s building a love for science and we want to make sure that children start early, get excited about science, technology, STEM careers, engineering, math, and that they build that trajectory straight up in to college,” DAlessio said.
The program is for K-8 teachers and entirely funded by a grant from energy company, Phillips 66.