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  • Lynn Holtzman

A Pedaling Pedagogy: Learning to Teach Birds from a Bike at Hocking College

In June, Hocking College, the School of Natural Resources hosted a workshop for Vo-Ag and environmental science teachers from across Ohio. The two-day workshop provided methodologies for teaching natural resource-related subjects such as tree identification and measurements, wildlife radiotelemetry, and ichthyology. I was privileged to teach methods on bird identification and ecology. My approach involved a bike ride on the Hockhocking bike trail. A trail that traverses some of the most beautiful, and diverse forest habitats in Southeastern Ohio. We started the bike tour at the Hocking College Nature Center where bikes and binoculars were provided (pictured at left). I had my students practice the use of their binoculars by identifying tree and barn swallows as well as a hen wood duck with her brood on a nearby pond pictured at right.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Kelley

Bike riding skills varied among the participants, but as the saying goes, "once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget," although I am not sure all the teachers would agree; however, they persevered even when they had to dodge darting squirrels and rabbits crisscrossing the trail.

We stopped frequently observing and identifying birds (pictured below) by sight and song throughout the ride and discussed their ecology and behavior. The list of birds learned included Northern cardinal, Carolina wren, Eastern towhee, song sparrow, Acadian flycatcher, scarlet tanager, wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, and indigo bunting. The yellow-breasted chat put on a good performance with its crazy song and aerial clown-like display antics and was a crowd favorite.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Kelley

All had a good time. One big advantage of birding on bikes noted by the teachers was the amount of diverse ground (i.e., habitat types) we covered in a relatively short period of time. They liked the idea of combining a fun physical activity outdoors with hands-on learning. A disadvantage is that not all young people know how to ride a bike. Also, schools may not have access to bikes or trails. Teaching someone to ride a bike is pretty basic and not all that difficult if someone is willing to come alongside a young person and teach them. Bikes can sometimes be obtained through educational grants or rented/borrowed from local libraries and businesses. The Rails to Trails project in Ohio has converted abandoned rail-road tracks to safe and accessible bike trails throughout every region of the state; check out their website I will continue to add Birding Ohio Bikeways trail guides on this website, please check back and use the information freely.

Good Birding on Bikes!


June 25, 2021

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