The ACES Ed Community Comes Together at Owl Nights
March 11, 2014
We recently wrapped up a series of “Owl Nights” ACES Ed events for Aspen Elementary School (AES) first graders at Hallam Lake. Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) has hosted Owl Nights for over 30 years to celebrate the end of the first grade owl unit with our students, their families, and their classroom teachers. These events are one of my favorite elements of ACES Ed, and based on the reactions of attendees, it is a night not to be missed.
We kick off Owl Night by sharing each student’s owl book, a project they worked on in the ACES Ed classroom for seven weeks. This project focuses on covering the first grade life science standard that asks students to “use direct observations to support ideas concerning physical characteristics that help animals survive.” As one teacher puts it, her students become “little owl experts.” Many parents who attend Owl Nights often confess that they too learn new things about these amazing raptors.
After sharing the owl books with parents, one lucky student dresses up in an exaggerated costume that displays the different parts of an owl. This activity is full of giggling, as first graders point out important owl characteristics to the audience. Next, the class sings an owl song together and performs a reading of Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, with each student reciting a line from the book. Finally, before heading outside to look and listen for wild owls, we introduce the crowd to our resident Great Horned Owl. This is surely the highlight of the evening, and our owl, although he is a little shy, steals the show. The non-releasable birds of prey at Hallam Lake are our best educators. Being so close to a live owl allows students and their families to see and experience the amazing characteristics that help him to survive. If the owl is hungry, he will even swallow a mouse in front of the audience!
Just as twilight hits, we put on our coats, hats, and mittens, and head out for a walk in the nature preserve where we all “hoot” into the night to see if wild owls will return our call. Sometimes all we hear are the hoots of other first graders, but if we’re lucky we’ll hear the beautiful hoot of a Great Horned Owl calling in the distance. Owl Nights gives students and their families a special opportunity to explore the preserve on a winter night, quietly walking with the hopes of catching a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
Who is ACES Ed? Our students shine during Owl Nights, proudly presenting what they have spent several weeks working on. Parents get a glimpse into our world of science education at Owl Nights and enjoy the opportunity to explore the magic of the natural world with their kids. Classroom teachers make Owl Nights possible, coordinating logistical details and supporting the ACES education staff. Our resident Great Horned Owl is an ACES Ed star, allowing attendees the opportunity to witness the majesty of a wild animal first hand. The ACES Ed community comes together at Owl Nights, some of my favorite nights of the year!
~ Sarah Onstad, ACES Educator
Click here to learn more about ACES Ed programming.
photos 1, 2 and 4 by Kylie Collins