Students at St. Charles Catholic Elementary Take Flight with FLAP
Students in Cathy Cormier’s Grade 5/6 class at St. Charles Elementary School have “gone to the birds” and are asking everybody they know to join them. These students have taken a very special program “under their wings” so to speak and are very enthusiastic in sharing their message about FLAP which stands for the Fatal Light Awareness Program. FLAP is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of wild birds in built environments and their mission statement is to preserve the lives of migratory birds in urban areas. Unfortunately, in the dark, and especially in foggy or rainy weather, the combination of glass and light becomes deadly for migratory birds. As birds migrate, they use starlight to navigate their course but get confused by artificial lights and are unable to see glass. As a result, birds by the hundreds and even thousands can be injured or killed in one night at one building. One expert estimates that across North America, up to 100 million birds die in collisions each year and many species that collide frequently are known to be in long-term decline and some are already designated officially as threatened.
Cathy Cormier became involved with this program at St. Charles several years ago when a student brought in a bird’s egg and the class began to discuss the ramifications of human contact with wildlife. Another teacher at the school, Theresa Giroux became involved in the discussion and described the FLAP program as she was already a member. The class commitment began there and has continued in Cormier’s class ever since. Each of the Grade 5/6 students this year studied a bird that was native to Northern Ontario and researched their migratory patterns. Giroux explained how important it is for students to be aware of the impact that humans have on wildlife. “It is really important that young people have an appreciation for the nature that is in their own backyard,” Giroux said. “By focusing on the birds that are around us locally, this program connects them environmentally to the wildlife provincially, nationally and globally.” Giroux also teaches the students the connection between the environment and energy conservation as this program instructs people to be aware of turning off lights and saving hydro, while helping out the migrating birds. As well, part of the lesson also teaches the students that by helping out the birds with the lights, the birds give back by eating Northern Ontario’s pesky insects including blackflies and mosquitoes. “The kids really learn that it is a win, win situation when they can connect to the environment,” Giroux said. “It is meaningful learning for them and they really begin to understand how valuable they are to their own world.”
The whole school community has taken on this important environmental initiative and has raised and donated several hundred dollars to the FLAP organization as the group is financed largely by grants, donations and membership fees.