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List of "In the Spotlight" Features

Poplar Students Cheer On the Birds


Located in the northeast corner of the state of Montana, sixty-two 7th graders at Poplar Middle School in Poplar are working hard to track six different species this spring. Led by their teacher, Mr. Paul Bartos, each class has taken on a different birds resulting in the school studying the golden eagle, black-necked crane, goshawk, trumpeter swan, tule goose, and harp seal.

Poplar students have been extremely successful in learning about these different species this spring. Mr. Bartos says that his students are constantly making predictions and rooting the animals on as they make their way. They have even made life-size cut outs of the birds, helping students to understand how large the birds really are.


The students have learned to use the different types of NASA imagery to explain the animals' movements. They have taken a particular interest in studying weather patterns, examining current weather, looking at online NASA weather data, and predicting what the next few days will bring. When studying the birds, the students notice that when the birds stop making northward progress, often photosynthesis rates are still low or the weather is still cold at the bird's location. Students easily connect earth and data. Although they root for the birds to move ahead, the students realize that the harsh reality is that life as a bird is not easy. They connect the animals to biological and environmental issues including habitats, resources, and competition between species.

Although the focuses of Signals of Spring are science and technology, Mr. Bartos stresses the importance of the program's interdisciplinary nature. Students reinforce geography and mapping skills by tracking the birds. They practice literacy with research and analysis journals, and math through scale and conversions. The results have been a higher than average interest in science and student performance haves have markedly improved over previous years.

Poplar students are extremely motivated by Signals of Spring. "They can't get enough continuing their research and analysis at home on their own time." Mr. Bartos attributes their interest to the hands-on approach of the program. He thinks that his students are so captivated because, "Its live,and adds that it is a great use of technology." Students are particularly excited about the interaction with the scientists. Signals of Spring partners have been supportive and helpful, answering students' questions and presenting them with more.

All in all, "Signals of Spring and Poplar Middle School students are a great fit. The students love what they are learning, and it has been a great success for them." Mr. Bartos sums up their interest by saying, "I'm competing against X-box, and I'm winning!"

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