Gazebo Gazette

After enjoying turkey on Thanksgiving, the First Graders at Coast Episcopal School focused their attention on a different bird when they returned from the holiday break on Monday, November 27.  At the invitation of their teacher, Dody Bennett, the children had the opportunity to see owls from representatives of Whisper of Hope, a non-releasable wildlife rescue and sanctuary in Gulfport.

Executive Director Jamie Pope brought several owls for the students to observe.  Pope started rehabbing in 2013 and, once she began rehabbing birds of prey, she fell in love with the owls.

“I’ve had training under two different rescue groups and a falconer, and I’ve taken course through places like Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The rehab world and the learning world are always changing.  Science and research changes constantly, so what we “know” as true one year, may change the next.  I am by no  means an expert, but I try to always learn so I can share my love with others.”

Pope’s goal for Whisper of Hope is to enhance its education outreach, and this year marks the fifth time she’s shared her knowledge with CES First Graders. The organization also visits civic groups and festivals and welcomes all invitations to educate groups along the MS Coast.  Whisper of Hope plans raise funds necessary to purchase land and build an educational facility.  “Education is key for survival for so many species.  An educational facility will help us continue to teach for years to come.”

Two other Whisper of Hope representatives, Becky and Jessie Evans, a mother-daughter duo who rescue, rehab and provide educational programs for bats, joined Pop at the Long Beach independent school.  Jessie helped with the first grade owl lessons while her mother, Becky, spoke with CES Second Graders about her passion, bats.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have found bats to be cool.  I’ve  been working with them since 2014.  I’ve trained and worked in California with microbates and in Queensland, Australia with flying foxes and microbats.  Bats are kind of the underdog and are understood.  My love for them – along with knowing that bat rehabbers make a difference – is what drives me.”

On Tuesday, November 28, the First Graders’ owl education shifted learning about the owls to investigating the pellets the birds produce.  The nuggets of undigested bones, teeth, fur and more are regurgitated by owls to protect their digestive systems.  The pellets provide hands-on learning about the food chain, animal anatomy and principles of ecology.

Tuesday’s lesson and the opportunity for each student to dissect a pellet was coordinated by two retired teachers, Cindy Groves and Denise Brown.  Their donation of time is evidence of the close knit CES Family, as Cindy is the grandmother and Denise is the great aunt of First Grade Student Caroline Carothers.

Said Mrs. Bennett about the activity, “After Ms. Groves gave a short lesson on what owls are and what contents the students should look for when dissecting, the class spent about an hour going through the pellets and matching the bones to charts to see what the owls had eaten.  Many found mice skulls and jaws, bird bones, and lots of fur.”

Coast Episcopal School is dedicated to a life-long love of learning by developing the whole child – mind, body and spirit – and providing a joyful, unique and nurturing Judeo-Christian Community that inspires its students to imagine and create a better world.

Founded in 1950, CES is a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS).  For information:  Coast Episcopal School, 5065 Espy Avenue, Long Beach, MS, 39560.  228-452-9442. Coastepiscopalschool.org