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Like most kids, Henry spent the 2020-2021 school year learning from home. He was in the fifth grade and spent every school day in the kitchen in Mr. Earls’ class.


Meanwhile, for more than ten years, we’ve had an “owl box” in the tree above our driveway. Usually, the box has had some sort of camera installed in it to catch any action. Over the years, there have been five nesting pairs of barred owls that have used the box.

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Mr. Earls liked to talk about science and the natural world in his class. When our latest nesting pair showed up in late winter, Henry thought it would be a good idea to show the class through a “broadcast”. So he got dressed up, we set up an iPhone on a tripod in the dining room, and the Weekly Owl Report was born!

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Sitting still and reading from cue cards was a big deal for Henry because he likes to move around a lot and sometimes has a hard time staying focused. He did a great job and only needed a few re-takes! This first video was just for kicks as a way to show the class what was going on in the owl box.


After the class premiere, Mr. Earls told Mike Szydlowski (the science coordinator for the school district). He thought the report was good enough to put on the Columbia Public Schools’ weekly science show! The Weekly Owl Report got an eager thumbs up from Mr. Earls and Mr. Szydlowski who are outside learning enthusiasts. With a wider audience, we knew we had work hard to craft new material every week.





Mr.. Szydlowski also leads curriculum development for the Boone County Nature School. The school provides "an immersive experience that connects students with their local ecosystem."

It was clear the Weekly Owl Report team needed to expand, so Henry invited his classmates to help out as “Field Reporters”. Kailey, Tatum, Emmett, and Carmen helped keep the class updated from the field. Even at such a young age, these reporters were always extremely hardworking and professional. Other students contributed artwork for the show.









Soon we settled into our weekly groove. 
First, Henry's dad checked the week's owl box footage for anything interesting and downloaded the video.
Then lines were written on cue cards to explain what happened that week or add some owl fun facts. Henry filmed at his news desk (the dining room table), and the field reporters filmed all their parts in front of Owl Box 1.


All this was sent to Casey. She imported everything into her editing program and put it all together to match the original outline. Once all revisions were complete, the final version was uploaded into a shared Google Drive that could be accessed by Mr. Earls and shown to the class! Whew!

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Not only did Mr. Earls make The Weekly Owl Report a highlight every Friday, but he also worked it into the weeks' lessons. The class read stories about owls, hosted bird experts, and had discussions about nature. Mr. Szydlowski was flexible and responsive, including The Weekly Owl Report in every CPS Science Show. Both focused on promoting backyard ecology observation and getting kids outside. At home, the school encouraged students to get out in their yards and neighborhoods.

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