Owling Nights at Hallam Lake
"And then Pa called: Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo. Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whoooooooo. I listened and looked so hard my ears hurt and my eyes got cloudy with the cold. Pa raised his face to call out again, but before he could open his mouth an echo came threading its way through the trees. Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo."
- Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
Owl Moon, a beloved children's book by Jane Yolen, tells the story of a little girl and her father going owling one late winter night. The trees stand still and the world is silent, for when you go owling you don't need words, you don't need anything but hope.
For the past month Aspen Elementary School first graders have been learning all about owls and what makes them impressive hunters in ACES' Environmental Education class. The owl unit culminates in ‘Owling Night’ at Hallam Lake, where students share their learning experience with their parents. But more excitingly, students and families come to ACES with the hope of seeing (or hearing) an owl on the nature preserve.
The evening begins inside the nature center when one lucky student is dressed up as an owl, an activity full of giggling first graders teaching their parents about the different parts of an owl. Next, the class sings a special owl song for their parents and performs a reading of Owl Moon, with each student reciting a line from the book. Then we introduce everyone to ACES resident Great Horned Owl. With this encounter, the eyes of everyone in the room light up; parents pull out their cameras, teachers are shocked at how silent and still their first graders can be, and the children are just in awe of being so close to a live owl.
Finally, at the end of the night, just as the sun has set behind the mountains, we go owling around Hallam Lake. We walk as silently as first graders can manage, experiencing what it is like to be alone on the preserve on a winter night. We hoot to the owls to see if any return our call. Sometimes there aren’t any responses, but sometimes, the hopes of our first graders and their families are appeased, and we catch a glimpse of one of these majestic creatures, or hear their inquisitive call as they fly through the night.
If you're ever around Hallam Lake or the Rio Grande Trail in the evening keep your ears out for the call of the Great Horned Owl (click here to listen)- they're out there!
~ Sarah Onstad, ACES Educator