Some showed up for the fun, some, to use hammers, and some to help the universe.
Room 5 at Mountain View Elementary was full long after classes ended Thursday; full of kids and parents and wood and nails. The gathering, Bites for Birds, is an annual workshop organized by Title I teachers for second graders to gain few skills in independent learning after school.
Aeroh Olson and her mother, Danya Olson, turned in their application for the event the day after the notices were sent out.
“I wanted to help all the birds, and share a little bit about birds and show we care about nature,” Aeroh Olson said. She said it was good for the universe to make houses for the birds in her backyard.
Danya Olson said the two have family members who are avid bird watchers. Aeroh sometimes asks to read the Audubon Birds of North America Field Guide before bed, Danya said.
Building birdhouses is a tradition for the school, said Rochelle Brenner, one of the teacher organizers.
“I don’t want to say it’s crucial, but is a big part of Mountain View,” Brenner said.
Children are given a list of instructions and parents are expected to provide minimal assistance with construction, Brenner said. Once built, students take the houses home along with a book and a whole pizza. It’s “something for their hearts and heads,” Brenner said.
April Stauss planned to accompany daughter Bella Stauss, but it ended up being a family affair when her other children, Cataleya McMillien and Theron McMillen, tagged along.
Stauss said the activity helped develop hand-eye coordination and was proud Bella completed “about 90 percent of the work.”
Bella said her favorite part was putting on the roof. There were a few things she needed help with, but even if her mother hadn’t been there she felt confident she would have been able to build the birdhouse.
Principal Karl Kircher said the event enriched entire family. When a parent is more involved in their child’s education the student is more likely to succeed, he said. Staff try to provide a variety of activities for all students year round that will bring parents into the building, he said.
Bites for Birds targets Title I students and their families and uses funds from the federal program, Kircher said.
Schools with a 35 percent or higher poverty rate are considered for the recognition, which is based on how many students qualify for free or reduced meals through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has chosen to target secondary education for Title I funds. Nineteen of the school district’s 44 schools are designed Title I schools.
“Fifty-five percent of our families reach the threshold for economically disadvantaged,” Kircher said.
This year, 26 schools meet the 35 percent poverty criteria in the Kenai Peninsula Borough school district, according to data provided by Director of Federal Programs Tim Vlasak in a previous Clarion interview.
Carmen Wright was excited for the opportunity to spend time with her two daughters: second grader Ginjer Davis and fourth grader Ruthie Davis. She said it was hard to let Ginjer complete the project alone, and often caught herself trying to help.
Ginjer and Ruthie both said they were happy to build birdhouses for the first time. Ginjer said it was her first time using a hammer and Ruthie said she learned new skills she can use for the rest of her life.
“You get to be creative, so you can express your feelings,” Ruthie said.