Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Memorable 3rd Grade Experience

by Fred Wright

Approximately 15 years ago my daughter approached me with an idea too intriguing to pass up.  It involved her class of 3rd Graders at Crestwood Elementary School in Elyria, Ohio and their instruction in the differences between a question, a statement and an exclamation, the use of technology to communicate, math and Homing Pigeons.  Come on now, you know you saw that one coming didn’t you?

Without trying to brag too much about her ingenious idea let me try to throw in some details for clarification.  Our family (on her mother’s side) has been active in pigeon flying for at least 5 generations, mostly in the Greater Cleveland area with one emigrant to the Chattanooga Club.  So she is very familiar with the sport and the birds even though she never had any particular interest in competing with the birds.  But she is as smart as a whip (yeah, it comes from her Mother) and is one of those teachers we all hope our kids have in their lives.

Her idea was to incorporate a little history of homing pigeons into her lesson plan about what exactly a question consists of, then have each student write down a question regarding pigeons, pick 5 of those questions, have her Dad bring some of his team to her school for a little hands on experience for the kids along with a little spiel from the old man, let each interested student actually touch a bird (this has always been a magic moment for me because of the look on their faces), place those 5 questions in a WW II type message carrier, strap it to the bird and then try our best to synchronize the release. 

It takes a few minutes for the kids to get the knack of how to safely hold the birds but they are very good about just letting the bird go if it gets too squirmy for them to hold onto.  In all these years they have never once hurt a bird or damaged the feathers.  And for 99% of these young folks the only pigeons they know are the ones in barns and on wires.  When I ask them what their first impression is after touching the birds it is almost always, “They are soooo soft.”  Hence, that magic moment.

After the birds are out of sight I remind them of the time and the distance in miles to my loft.  I point out they need to remember these facts because after I answer their 5 questions now on the way to my loft, there will be a question from me for them to answer.

I answer their questions via email as part of the curriculum involving the use of technology.  My question to them is sent the same way.  I tell them the arrival time of the first bird and ask them to calculate the speed in MPH.  If they were 4th graders, I would probably go for the YPM calculation, but it’s a beginning.

And there you have the simplistic explanation for a complicated process.  My hope is some of our membership will see this as an opportunity to promote our sport. But more importantly, expose our hobby to the next generation and along the way help educate them in a very novel way.  If you do nothing else, I promise you will bring lots of smiles to lots of kids’ faces. 

My daughter will gladly share her lesson plan with any certified educator.  That’s another reason why her Mom and Dad are so proud of her and the work she does.

This year ended up a two day affair due to rain moving in unexpectedly on day one.  As you can clearly see from these pictures, they are thrilled by this experience.


Fred Wright, Triple W Loft, Independent Homing Club