Personal Inquiry Blog

Saturday, October 16, 2004


This is a link to my presentation I've been spending some time this morning looking at the other projects in the class and some of them are really creative. I'd love to meet some of these people in future classes.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Me with the snowy owl puppet. This picture is too big to upload into Steel so it isn't showing up in my PowerPoint. Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 10, 2004


What were the strengths and weaknesses of the project?
Well, as my friend Diane says, “You can teach a monkey to do research.” So, the amount of information I found, while prodigious, isn’t really a strength. The fact that it was an enjoyable experience was a definite plus. Naturally, having fewer other things to do in my life would have made it even more fun, but that’s a luxury I couldn’t afford. I especially liked having the email contacts to engage in question and answer sessions. It’s great to have someone right there or virtually right there who can answer a question as soon as it arises.
Another big strength was becoming more aware of my own process in terms of inquiry. It’s interesting to me that I know myself much better as an artist than as a student. Going through artist’s block certainly made me totally aware of what I needed to do in order to be creative. The process is also very similar. I know that I need to have a fallow period --that sort of watching, wondering and webbing period where I spend time in art galleries, look through my art books, take myself off to an interesting shop or museum and just let images swirl around in my head. Then I have a wiggling and weaving time when I’m actually in the studio pulling fabrics, making drawings, listening to music, starting to develop new work.
Weaving is moving things around on the design wall-- a sort of Jamie McKenzie-esque “sorting and sifting” time. Sewing things together and quilting come next. Wrapping is finishing up the quilt and waving is having a show or entering the quilt in a competition. Wishing goes on every time I look at an old piece—I shouldn’t have used that color, that image could have been stronger, workmanship could have been more perfect, and so on.
By spending time during this project thinking about my thinking, I realize that much of my process as an artist came from my student research process. I know that I spend a great deal of time reading about subjects that interest me, viewing videos and films about the topic if they’re available, forming questions, looking for more information, making lists, diagrams or drawings, but hardly ever discussing my work with anyone else. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable writing things out or just having them swirl around in my head. I am not confident that I can express myself very well verbally. (How interesting that my first career was as an actress! All I had to do was memorize someone else’s words rather than supply my own. And I hated improvisation for exactly that reason!)
So not seriously discussing my project with anyone would definitely be a weakness. Questioning is also an area in which I really only scratched the surface. I could have cycled back through the beginning steps, as Jamie McKenzie says, to revise my questions more times than I did.

What would I do differently?
In future, I will try to discuss projects with someone who could provide another insight or help me through a tough area. I also want to focus much more on questioning the next time so as to avoid the “information gathering shopping trip” that McKenzie talks about. I definitely have a tendency to be an impulse information gatherer.

Curriculum Connection
Early in my postings, I discussed the specific fifth grade standards that could be satisfied by the owl inquiry project specifically. I’ve also mentioned throughout my blog that the 7th grade language arts teachers and I have been discussing a yearlong personal inquiry project for students. One of the teachers wanted her students to pick a topic before they began the project. I think that the students should spend the first two months “watching”--reading lots of different books, magazines, newspapers—and doing lots of writing about what interests them about the things they are reading and what else they are curious about. After that time, they could settle on a topic area and begin to generate questions. This project will satisfy several 7th grade language arts standards that Daniel Callison outlined in Key Words, Concepts and Methods for Information Age Instruction:
1)Use strategies of note-taking, outlining and summarizing to improve writing structure
2) Identify topics; ask and evaluate questions; and develop ideas leading to inquiry (Callison, 79)

Personal connection
My awareness of my process has changed more than my actual process, I think, as a result of this project. The primary importance of questions, of recycling through the early inquiry steps are also important embellishments that I will be adding to my process. Just as becoming aware of one’s artistic process can help to overcome artist’s block, so understanding one’s personal inquiry habits can make that more efficient and emotionally rewarding.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A rap on "wrapping" with a little "waving" on the side

If someone tries to cram one more thing into this week, I think my head will explode. Oy! Anna, our daughter, was home from Boston visiting all week. The musical my husband is directing is in production this week. My parents arrived last night. Seventh graders doing travel brochure research were in the library all week and my personal inquiry project is due on Monday. I feel as though I am barely keeping it all in the air. This too shall pass, however.

I decided on a PowerPoint aimed at the 8 to 14 year-old audience because most of the information about rehabilitation and conservation is aimed at adults and it’s important for kids to start thinking responsibly before they become adults. And since kids are usually interested in owls because of Harry Potter, I began the presentation with references to owls in the Harry Potter books. I arranged all my notes and the printouts I had highlighted in a preliminary order. Physiology first, then conservation and rehabilitation information, and ending with things to do to help. Then I decided to eliminate most of the information about rehabilitation because it’s mostly an adult issue. I wanted to be sure to mention environmental concern, but in reference to things that kid can actively do something about. I used lots of graphics, pictures and animation and sounds since our students seem to love those aspects in a PowerPoint. Two of my library helpers, Skylar and Dylan, looked at the presentation and pronounced it “cool.” My friend, Rhonda, the media aide, looked at it and found two typos, thank goodness! She had taken the digital picture of me with the stuffed owl yesterday morning and came down to make sure I’d gotten it into the presentation.

Essentially, I had enough information for about four different projects emphasizing different issues, so I had to fight against the urge to throw everything in somehow. I can see that this could be an issue with our students as well. If they spent time finding information, they would want to use it. Having the two Inspiration diagrams did help me to realize that the information on concerns arising from rehabilitation was really not something that was going to fit into a presentation for kids. I could also see that creating an Inspiration diagram would be a great way for kids to story board their own PowerPoint presentations. The center would be their first title slide, then if a circle leading off the center had more circles extending from it, they would know to use a slide with bullets or just a title slide. They could bring up the outline version of their document, print that out and write out their slides along the right side of the paper. Getting them to plan ahead isn’t always easy. They just want to make slides and then spend too much time finding graphics or animating them. I’d like to work with the sixth grade teachers to come up with a lesson plan for presenting PowerPoint in this manner. Creating the Inspiration document also gives the kids a sort of transformation scaffold to put their information into their own words.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"Wiggling" in the tub and "Weaving" elsewhere

Now that I’m more aware of my thought processes, I realize that I do a great deal of thinking in the bathtub. (Some scientist whose name I can’t recall said “bed, bath and bus” were his times for creative thinking.) So whilst having a nice, leisurely soak in (appropriately enough) my claw-footed tub this morning, I was deciding what to do with all of this information I’ve amassed. Most of the physiological information I will probably file cerebrally. Goodness knows there are already too many websites devoted to that information. I want to focus on what the average person can do to help the professionals in the fields of rehabilitation and re-establishment and I want to have a service component. Volunteering was proving to be problematic. Soaring Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation Center is too far away. And while money is always needed, it’s not really service. So it came to me the other day that I could make a quilted wall hanging that could be auctioned off to raise money by the rehabilitation centers. An annotated bibliography is also on my list of things to accomplish since I want to document this entire process for a seventh grade language arts Resident Expert Project. If we get the students to start exploring a topic that interests them early in the year, they can work on their information inquiry skills all year as well as doing guided reading for Sustained Silent Reading.

This project has been a good exercise in letting go for me. I am such a control freak most of the time and I really let this take me wherever it led. I think as teachers we have to be a lot less invested in the specifics of what students research. As long as they are in the content “ballpark” we should give them their head as much as possible. Look at the interesting things I discovered by not having a fixed agenda. I know we don’t always have the luxury of lots of time for them to “wonder” around, but projects like the Resident Expert need to be encouraged for that reason.

Wingmasters in Massachusetts emailed back and sent their telephone number so I will call them tomorrow. The University of Florida group also finally emailed back but they weren’t involved in a re-establishment project with the burrowing owls so that was a dead end. I’ve had such good luck with emailing people so one dud isn’t bad.

I started a PowerPoint this morning and I’ll have some of my student workers look at it to see where I need to add information or transitions.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Second Inspiration-created diagram dealing with issues involved with rehabilitating owls. Posted by Hello

Friday, October 01, 2004

Conversations with Bev

Email Conversations with Bev Day of O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society)

What are some of the reasons that you receive owls for rehabilitation?
Reasons for getting owls in care are loss of habitat. (E.g. barns being torn down) We usually try to talk the construction people into waiting as long as possible before demolition starts. That gives the babies a better chance of survival. Trees taken down for home construction and nest being found after the tree is cut. Bad year for food supply. (I.e. weather) In really rainy seasons, we tend to get lot of nestlings in from falling out of nests. Sometimes juveniles just haven’t learned survival skills or are left to their own resources by the parents. Hit by cars while foraging too close to the road where rodents are attracted because we humans throw a lot of junk out the window because as kids we were taught it was bio-degradable so it was okay
to do so. We teach differently in our classes that visit us so maybe we will make a difference for the future.

Once the owl is healthy, is it returned to the wild? If not, why?
Yes, the majority of birds in care are returned to the wild. We have a master bander that comes and bands birds that go back to the wild so we get some feedback on this. Over the years we have found with barn owls in particular, the adults have to be taken back to the area they came from. We have had returns on the bands that adults have been hit by cars making their way back to their territory. We have had young stay and nest in sites they were returned to after they have gone through our program. With barn owls in particular we have adopted a program which makes sure they have hunting skills as well getting used to the barn habitat. To this end we have a barn where they are placed at about
14-16 wks of age as they usually just started flying well by 12 weeks.
They are left in this habitat which does contain chickens so they get used to people going and collecting eggs without cleaning up in the owl section. We have 12 chickens just enough to make it feasible for that type of environment but not enough to deter us from our objective which is barn owls. The chickens come and go in this run but the owls do not have access to them as a food source or access to the outside through the chicken run. The Barnies have access to the outside runs as they wish either day or night to get them used to coming and going in
a barn situation.

The odd owl that has come to us have some injuries which even when healthy cannot be turned back to the wild. Jessie, a barred owl, being one. He suffered head trauma from impact with car. Went through our whole program. He can hunt, kill, fly etc., but anyone can walk up to him at any time and pick him up, as we say, "lights on, nobody home", so would make him accessible to anyone that found him in a forest to take home as a pet. Not acceptable under our criteria as releasable. Some owls have minor injuries that make them suitable as foster parents but not as education tools. We have 10 birds that we maintain and take to class. They show no evidence of stress and seem to like the human interaction. During training, this is monitored quite adequately
to make us deem them useful for education. Non-releasable that don't take to manning are used in our front education program and are also used as foster parents. The tours for education are by guide only or outside our locked area which gives the birds quite adequate distance so as not to be disturbed by viewing. All of our caging and distance from caging for viewing are above government standards. When we get our new property, I want to change the way the cages are designed, to improve the habitat for all events and injuries.

Are there laws against keeping owls as pets?
Yes there are laws against owning owls without permits but government here is approachable for some of the stupidest things. You can own owls if they are from out of province or bred in captivity. ANY bird that can go back to the wild is returned to the wild. Under no circumstances is a bird kept that can go back to the wild even when on the endangered species list. We have no right as rehabbers to decide to keep healthy birds in captivity. Some people do want us to turn birds over as they have capture permits or want them for the film industry. THESE requests are not granted unless they will take non-releasable.

Do you have any reintroduction programs similar to ones in the US that are attempting to reestablish burrowing owls in Minnesota?

The Fraser Valley here is the last area of any concentration of Barn Owls. They are considered on the endangered list here. We do have two areas or groups that are doing Burrowing owl breeding. What they are actually doing with the young afterward, I do not know. There used to be a program in the interior years ago but lack of government funding put that program to rest. Kay McKeever also does breeding and relocation. We do try to always find breeding programs for species at risk before considering education or other uses for the birds that CANNOT be released. Kay McKeever is usually the place we send most of our non-releasable owls.

What breed of owls do you see the most?

Our years change as to what we get in most, seems to generally be barn owls. To my knowledge, the barn owls are the only ones that will produce young all year round depending on weather so
if we have a Chinook [warm, dry, local wind] go through, hey, think it's spring.

What are the most important goals of your organization?
One of our main sayings here are the birds care comes first. People later. Education is one of our biggest ways to get info out to people. Kids are going to take over after us and walk in our footsteps so we do try to set good examples. Our president also has put up 70 barn owl
Boxes, some to replace some that are too small put up by an oil company to make themselves look good and some just to give birds better nesting sites. He also monitors all of these to make sure they are kept clean and also to keep track of which ones are active.

Your mention of nesting boxes brought up another question. I've been doing some reading about them and it seems that most people who spend lots of time with owls believe that putting them up on a pole is better than putting them up in a tree. What's your view on that?
In my opinion it would depend on the species of owl you are dealing with and the type of habitat they are used to as well as what predators would have access to the nesting box. Weather as well is a factor to take into consideration. There was a program for barn owls where the airport put out boxes in the surrounding fields. These boxes were
supposed to encourage them to stay out of the hangers. I think 10 large barn-shaped boxes were put up. I can't remember the dimensions, but think of a doghouse for a German Shepherd size dog! Only one of the 10 were ever used and only for 2yrs then deserted. I've known screech owls to nest in the middle of a pond in a wood duck box. Our barn owl boxes are either placed inside or on the outside of the barn depending whether or not the farmer wants the owls to have access to the inside of the barn. We have one nesting pair of barn owls in the middle of a sub-division about 2 blocks from farm area that have nested there or their kids for about 8 yrs now. The nest was originally meant for woodpeckers. Go figure…

Bev told me that of the 15 owls that are native to British Columbia, the only one they haven’t seen at their facility is a Burrowing Owl. O.W.L. also dealt with 365 birds of prey last year.

The "webbing" continues

My email conversations with both of the rehabilitators has been really important to my emotional connection with this project. They have really personalized the issues for me. Both of these women are so committed to protecting animals that it is their job and their leisure activity. Because they did a wonderful job of conveying their emotional connection to these animals, I use their words rather than paraphrasing.

E-mail Conversations with Mindy Poole, wildlife rehabilitator

Have you ever had any experience with owls?

“I have rehabilitated owls, and other birds of prey. At first I feed them ground turkey, chicken or beef. I also offer small chunks of meat.
Owls are meat eaters. For rehabilitation, I try to keep them as close to nature as I possibly can. I keep them in a large outdoor cage with a roof. The cage is hung in trees. I feed them with meat tongs, and never touch them with my bare hands. I like to keep my fingers. As they get stronger I offer them some live mice. When they are well enough to catch the mice, and feed themselves they are ready to be set free.
I continue to offer the fresh meat, and leave it outside the cage when they are set free, so they can return if they need too, but they usually don’t. I have only rehabilitated one adult.”

“The adult Owls are very dangerous to rehabilitate. They try to protect
themselves, hiss, threaten....At first I put meat in the cage and left it alone. He as much to scared to eat in front of me. I used the meat tongs to place the meat in the cage, to protect my hands. I also kept water available at all times.”

How did you learn to rehabilitate animals? Did you take classes or learn from someone else?

“I was raised in the country in a very secluded area. I saved small animals as a child. I actually learned what they need on my own, by watching them in the wild.... If I had a problem I would call a local vet who would tell me what I needed to know. He also gave me a recipe for baby animals which I modify depending if they are meat eaters, or if they eat vegetables...I eventually raised animals for a rehabber, but on my own at my home, and after a couple years got licensed myself so I could save more. I also spend a lot of time with the animals, and have a way of knowing what they want. Some need fed more often...”

“Animals have a way of communicating through their actions, and you can always tell if an animal is healthy or not by looking into its eyes. Just like a child, their eyes sort of look sad if they are not feeling well. I work for Home for Friendless Animals. I am a manager there. is a no-kill animal sanctuary where I work.) My boss says I just have a special touch with he animals. I seem to know there is a problem at a glance. I have a hard time understanding why other people don’t see what I see, just looking into the eyes of an animal. It’s just like looking into the eyes of a friend. You can tell if they are sick, tired, scared, happy.............Animals are just the same.”

I'm going to go ahead and publish this much and then do another posting with Bev's comments.