For a time, several Ripon elementary school students were held captive by tiny feathers and toothpick wings.

The sun was out and the school year was drawing to a close. Yet for these children, nothing was more compelling than the smallest of creatures in the palm of their hands.

It was a brood of bluebird chicks, carefully taken one by one from a nest on the Murray Park Elementary School grounds, and then banded under the skilled hands of Memuna Khan, an associate professor of biology at Ripon College.

She and third-grade teacher Cindi Pokorny both share an interest in bluebirds, with Khan helping to install a set of wooden bluebird boxes in fall 2014 on the school grounds.

“I started getting bluebirds in my yard and talking to her about it,” Pokorny said. “... She came and talked to my class, and we picked three places for boxes, and the class helped her put them up on the grounds. And then in March (2015) we had to start monitoring.

“We have to make sure they’re cleaned out and open for the winter, so there aren’t birds roosting in them, and beginning in March, we close them up and we start checking weekly to see if bluebirds are there.”

This is the second nesting season for the birds on the school grounds. Only one of the three boxes is occupied by bluebirds, but it produced five chicks. Each was banded on the leg with a small, colored band that has a tracking number ... Find out what the kids are learning in the full article, in the July 7, 2016, issue of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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