Youngsters get a birds-eye view

CEED launches Nature of Science and Bird classes


If you were a kid, you would want to come here.

Nine first and fifth graders are learning specific bird facts, including why their feathers repel water and how their beaks have adapted for different foods, at CEED’s Nature of Science - Science of Birds program in lively weekly outdoor classes.

Materials were scattered across a table for the Bird Beak Game on Wednesday, or how much food could each type of beak eat and how fast? Absorbed in their activity while wearing masks, the students used everyday prototypes that simulated different bird beaks as well as the food they might eat.

“Birds’ beaks determine their diet,” said retired teacher Eileen Tambone, a volunteer.

In avian life, the uniqueness of birds’ beaks accommodates meat eaters like owls, fruit and nut eaters like parrots, seed eaters including finches, fish-eating osprey and hummingbird nectar feeders.

The previous week, students studied what causes birds’ feathers to repel water. For that one, they formed paper wings and painted on solutions of vinegar, Crisco, or olive oil.

“They preen,” said a young girl. That got a grateful acknowledgement from lead teacher Julia Todorov and Tambone. Besides attempting to remove dust and dirt, birds connect with an uropygial or preen gland, found near the base of the tail. It produces an oily, waxy substance that helps keep feathers waterproof.

Cofounder, program and site director Eric Powers brought out Lovey, an albino African collared dove, which had a slim, short beak.

“What sets us apart is that we really strive to do research and allow the students to discover,” Powers said. “The classes are interesting and fun, but there’s a lot of research and planning behind the scenes. It’s directed play to learn a scientific objective.”

But besides those lessons, students are encouraged towards activities in the woods with Todorov and Tambone leading the way, scrambling with youngsters down inclines or trampling in other areas for guided instruction. The CEED headquarters, surrounded by old-growth trees and open space, is a kind of nature paradise, with teachers as enthusiastic as the kids.

(Call it forest bathing, whatever, this journalist yearned to remain.)

Charlotte, Cecilia and Wilhelmina had fashioned a wigwam, within a copse of trees. The sheet draped across two trunks represented an animal skin. “The trees are the walls and we’re using this bark for the floors if we wanted to sit down and not get wet,” explained Wilhelmina.

Brady, who had experimented with a scoop beak earlier, walked over with a substantial tree limb, nearly 5 feet tall. “I want to bring it to my house and make a sculpture,” he said.

Problem solving is encouraged, and the kids work it out, agreed Todorov and Tambone, who have substantial teaching credentials.

Probably the best compliment came when Todorov announced it was time to bring in all the materials. Classes average an hour and their session was up.

A disappointed sigh of “Oh, I don’t want to,” from one of the girls who yearned to remain, was expressed.

But there were still more Science of Bird classes this month. And the Spring Farm & Nature Experience will start March 29 to April 2.

“We’re partnering with Mama Farm and some amazing gardeners,” said executive director Sally Wellinger of the organic farm next door. “They have a fabulous design for a children’s garden.” Half of the course will be at the farm, the other half at CEED. Some spaces are left, but enrollment will be capped off, so get in your registration at

“We have also had a couple of donations of scholarships for children that are unable to attend due to finances,” Wellinger said. “If anyone is interested in sponsoring a scholarship, please reach out to us at,” or call 631-803-6780.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here