School ‘Spirit’ takes on new meaning for GES 4th graders


By Dawn Hatfield

GREENVILLE — When most students think of school spirit, they likely envision cheers, school colors, and pom poms, but not Mrs. Flora’s fourth-grade science students. School “Spirit” to them conjures visions of wings, talons, and a beak! Students in Mrs. Flora’s science classes recently adopted Spirit the red-tailed hawk from Shawnee Prairie and were visited by Spirit in “person” at Greenville Elementary School.

Sherry Flora explained, “I teach fourth-grade science, and both of my two homerooms (44 total students) participated in an ‘Adopt-a-Bird’ program through Shawnee Prairie. The students brought $1 to help sponsor the feeding and care of the bird of their choice. They chose Spirit the hawk, but there are a few other birds they could choose as well. In return, Mitchell [Pence] brought the bird to come visit us in the classroom. He taught the students about hawks and allowed the students to ask questions. He will also be sending us monthly updates about Spirit over the rest of the school year. This is the second year my students participated in this project [as] we skipped last year due to COVID.”

Shawnee Prairie Preserve naturalist Mitchell Pence elaborated on their visit, “Spirit and I had a wonderful visit with Mrs. Flora’s fourth-grade classes, and the students had a lot of great questions for us. Sherry Flora’s class participated in the ‘Classroom Edition’ of the Adopt-a-Bird program, which is a special version specifically created for schools to engage with our educational raptor ambassadors. The donation from Sherry Flora’s classes will be used to help feed, medicate, and provide enrichment for our birds of prey that are housed here at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. All of the raptor ambassadors we have can no longer be released into the wild due to injury or imprinting, so they act as an important education tool for the Park District and require a lot of care from myself and the rest of the Naturalist staff.”

Pence added, “An Adopt-a-Bird: Classroom meet-and-greet involves myself and one other naturalist bringing the adopted bird to the school and allowing the students an up close look at these beautiful birds while delivering an informative program about the species (in Spirit’s case, a red-tailed hawk) and about the bird itself. Usually these sessions last for 30 to 40 minutes depending on how comfortable the bird is throughout the program.”

Encouraging other educators to get involved, Pence ended, “If other teachers in Darke County are interested in adopting a bird for their classroom, they can find more information at [or by calling the Shawnee Prairie Nature Center at 937-548-0165.]”

Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.

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