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Integrated Study Unit,
Monitoring Operation Migration's
Fall 2006 Migration

October 21, 2006

Dear Parents: 

As your son or daughter may have already mentioned, our class has just begun an integrated unit following the ďUltralight-guidedĒ migration of eighteen juvenile Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Florida.  This is the sixth annual migration training mission to be conducted by Operation Migration, a Canadian non-profit organization based out of Port Perry, Ontario.  The migration will probably be complete in early to mid-December.

Our study of this migration, and the endangered Whooping Crane in general, will touch on several curriculum areas:  Language (reading, writing, oral communication and media studies), Science (the Grade Two animal unit), Math (numeration, graphing and estimation), Social Studies (mapping), Computer Studies (following migration progress and conducting Whooping Crane research via the internet), Character Education (citizenship, responsibility, caring) and Art. 

In November, we will be creating paper mache Whooping Crane sculptures.  You can help by saving up newspapers and paper rolls (from gift wrap, paper towel and toilet paper) and sending them to class.

Some of our Whooping Crane-related classroom activities will soon be posted on the internet.  In the meantime, you and your son or daughter might enjoy exploring the following web sites together: 

Journey Northó  http://www.journeynorth.org

Operation Migrationó  http://www.operationmigration.org


Margaret Black

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Migration Math:
Numeration, Graphing and Estimation Problems


Each day the birds fly, we obtain their flight distance from the Operation Migration web page. Then:

1.  We add today's flight distance to the distance flown on previous days (in kilometres).  This tell us the total distance the birds have flown to date.

2.  We subtract the distance flown to date from the total distance in the journey (in kilometres).  This tells us how far the birds still need to fly, to reach their winter home.

3.  We update the kilometres flown and kilometres left, on our "scoreboard."

4.  We update our bar graph, that depicts daily flight distances, and discuss what kind of day the birds had, compared to previous flight days.

5.  When the birds reached the half-way point in their journey south (Cumberland County, Tennessee), we estimated the date they would arrive at their winter home.  Throughout the remainder of the migration, we will use the data we have collected (i.e. our tracking map, daily flight distance graph, "no-fly" day tally and "scoreboard") to make revisions to our estimates.  These are our initial predictions, made on November 22nd:

Name of Person Estimated Finish
Patrisha December 1st
Alexander December 5th
Alicia December 7th
Mrs. Black December 7th
Mrs. Koster December 9th
Amelia December 10th
Zachary December 10th
Curtis December 11th
Brittany December 13th
Jackson December 13th
Kalina December 13th
Sami December 14th
Amy December 15th
Natasha December 15th
Colton December 16th
Tallon December 16th
Theresa December 20th
Aimee December 22nd
Rebecca December 31st

Here is a bar graph, depicting our initial predictions:

6.  After a woman donated a mile of travel expenses to Operation Migration, in honour of our class, students asked if they could donate money to the cranes.  Throughout the month of November, we kept a "Crane Cash Jar" at school and students brought in loose change from home, from time-to-time, and placed it in the jar.  On November 30th, students engaged in a real-life numeration activity.  They sorted, stacked, rolled and counted all the money in the jar.  Then, we sent a cheque to Operation Migration, to assist them in getting the cranes to Florida.  Here's how this activity went:

NOTE:  This real-life math lesson was also featured on the Journey North educational web page!

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Whooping Crane
Fiction and Non-Fiction Reading


In our classroom, we have many fiction and non-fiction resources about Whooping Cranes and Ultralight-guided migration.  The students enjoy perusing these books and information sheets during silent reading periods, or when their work is complete and they have a few minutes to spare.

Check out our "crane chick bookmarks!"
(our teacher printed and laminated our favourite
chicks' descriptions from the OM site)

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Computer Lab. Explorations
of Whooping Crane Websites, Urban Environments


Once each week, our class has an opportunity to spend a period in the school's main computer lab, where there is a computer for each student.  Throughout the migration, we are spending at least part of our computer time exploring Whooping Crane-related websites together.  As part of our Grade 3 Social Studies unit, we are also using the internet to explore the urban environments where our "migration pen pals" live: Houston, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tampa, Florida.  This picture shows several students browsing the Journey North site for Whooping Crane information and migration news:

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Journey North Information Booklet
Reading Responses


Each week, we read one of Journey North's booklets about Whooping Cranes and Ultralight-guided migration.  Afterwards, students answer a "reflection question" about the day's reading.  At the end of the day, each student is given a copy of the booklet to take home and share with his/her family.

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"Persuasive" Letter-writing
to Help Raise Funds for Operation Migration

On October 17, 2006, Liz Condie of Operation Migration posted the following on the Operation Migration website:

Because it is with the children of today that lies the hope for all the world's creatures and their habitats, we at Operation Migration are never more pleased than when our efforts, and our work on behalf of the endangered Whooping crane, inspires them.

This was the case for the children at the Louisville Kentucky's John F. Kennedy Montessori School. Their teacher, Lori Trout, wrote to tell us what the kids there had decided to do to help OM get the Class of 2006 from Wisconsin to Florida. They decided to write to ExxonMobil to ask for the company's help.

To read Loriís cover letter to ExxonMobil Corporation's CEO, Mr. Rex Tillerson, and to see copies of the letters her students wrote, click Craniac Kids Take Action At the bottom of the page there, you will also see several pictures of the students at work.

Should there be other teachers, students, classes, schools, who would like to reinforce the message sent to ExxonMobil by the 'Craniac Kids' from John F. Kennedy Montessori School, Mr. Tillerson's address is:

Mr. Rex W. Tillerson, CEO
ExxonMobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, Texas 75039-2298

I asked my school's Principal for permission to involve my students in this letter-writing campaign.  She thought it was a great idea.  I then responded to Liz's posting by by sending her an e-mail, saying:

I am going to have my 'Canadian Craniacs' write letters to Exxon, in Texas.  We will let the CEO know that American school kids along the flight path aren't the only ones cheering the Whoopers on, during their migration, and that we too would like to see Exxon lend a helping hand, via a financial and/or fuel-related contribution to the project.

These are pictures some of my students writing their letters to the CEO of the ExxonMobil Corporation:


This is my class holding up their finished letters:


This is my cover letter to Mr.Tillerson:

Margaret A. Black
Harriett Todd P.S.
11 George Street
Orillia, Ontario, Canada
L3V 4V8

October 23, 2006

Mr. Rex W. Tillerson, CEO
ExxonMobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, Texas 75039-2298

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

Last month, a class of students from Kentucky wrote to you, asking your company to assist with an amazing project.  That project is Operation Migrationís Fall 2006 Ultralight-guided Whooping Crane migration from Wisconsin to Florida.  My class is writing to you, today, to tell you that American children, on the flight path, arenít the only ones interested in this venture.  Canadians, are also cheering the eighteen juvenile Whooping Cranes and their amazing pilots and handlers along, as they journey southward together.

I remember, well, the desperate measures conservationists employed, during my childhood and teen years, to keep Whooping Cranes from becoming extinct. In 1941, there were only 15 Whoopers left.  In 1960, the year I was born, there were 33.  I was seven years old when American and Canadian biologists came together to redouble their efforts to save the Whooping Crane.  At that point, there were still only about 50 birds left.  I recall the celebration when, in my early twenties, biologists announced that Whooping Crane numbers had finally surpassed the 100-mark.  And, on September 6th, 2006, biologists announced that there are now 500 Whooping Cranes in existence!

The only remaining natural, migratory flock of Whooping Cranes travels between Wood Buffalo National Park, in northern Canada, and The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, in Texas.  Operation Migration is reintroducing a migratory flock of Whooping Cranes to eastern North America.  Their reason for doing so is to safeguard the species.  If an oil spill, storm or other such disaster was to hit the western flock, and there wasnít another population of wild birds living in elsewhere on the continent, the entire wild population of Whooping Cranes could be wiped off the face of the planet in a single incident.

I told my students I have a dream that, when they are adults, they will tell their children the story about how the Whooping Crane USED TO BE an endangered species, and about the remarkable efforts that incredibly creative, talented and dedicated people made to bring the species back from the very brink of extinction.  I am doing what I can to make this dream a reality.  I am encouraging my students speak out about issues that matter to them, such as the plight of the Whooping Crane, and I am personally sponsoring one mile of Operation Migrationís travel expenses, during the current migration, for $206. USD. 

Operation Migration is a non-profit, charitable organization that relies upon the generosity of corporations and individuals to carry out its work.  At present, only half of the required funding is in place for the 2006 migration from Wisconsin to Florida (currently underway).   With four Ultralight aircraft, a Cesna and several ground support vehicles, as their means of transportation, one of Operation Migrationís greatest expenses is for fuel.  I challenge your company to join me in supporting Operation Migration with a generous gift of fuel or funding.

My students and I thank you for your time. 


Margaret A. Black
Grade 2/3 Classroom Teacher


These are some of the letters my class wrote:

Kids CAN make a difference!  On December 22nd, the following letter arrived at Harriett Todd P.S.:

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"Crane-fiction" Writing


(Storybook format:
Click on each page to load the next)

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Media Literacy Study:
"Father Goose & His Goslings" VS. "Fly Away Home"



In order to satisfy part of our new media studies curriculum requirement, our class is studying the differences between the true story of how, in 1992, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff came to fly a flock of eighteen Canada Geese from Ontario to Virginia, behind Ultralight Aircraft, and the Hollywood version of this story.  Our comparison will focus on the characters and events presented in the book "Father Goose and his Goslings" and the movie "Fly Away Home," with specific reference to why students think the producers felt the need to change certain elements of the story when they made the movie.

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"Crane Art" Lesson
by a Grade 3 Student


One weekend, a Grade Three student in my class, who is very excited about our migration study, made several Whooping Crane crafts at home.  On Monday, she brought in two of her creations to show us.  I invited her to teach the class how to make her pop-up crane design.  Everyone enjoyed the student-led art lesson and got to take home a really nice, little Whooping Crane ornament.  Thanks Amy... you did a super job!  (P.S.  Stay tuned for further student-led art lessons.  Amy is now spending her spare time, at home, working on craft-prototypes of an Ultralight Aircraft!)   NOTE:  This project was also featured on the Journey North educational web page!

   Click here for "Pop-up Crane" Craft Instructions    

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Paper Mache Whooping Cranes

Our class is constructing eighteen, 2 1/2 foot tall, paper mache Whooping Cranes, one to represent each member of the real flock.  This project meets several Grade Two and Grade Three Visual Arts curriculum expectations and also touches on the Grade Three Science topic, Structures and Mechanisms: Stability.  NOTE:  This project was also featured on the Journey North educational web page!

Our teacher's finished prototype, 
sporting "crane tag" #607

"The First Cohort" of Twelve Mache Cranes!
Top row  (left-right):  614, 620, 612, 601, 602
Bottom row:  622, 623, 608, 605, 610, 611, 613

"The Second Cohort"
Back row  (left-right):  604, 606, 615
Front row:  618, 607, 619

   Click here for "Paper Mache Crane" Craft Instructions    

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