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Davis Journal

Students are flying high as FHS opens its aviary

Nov 08, 2021 04:30PM ● By Peri Kinder

Students at FHS help build displays for the aviary.

Farmington Bay is a hotspot for birdwatchers, with more than 200 species of birds found in the wetlands including bald eagles, swans, pelicans and cranes. The bay is less than a 30-minute walk to Farmington High School and science teacher Adam Blundell uses its proximity to introduce students to ornithology and conservation.

There are less than a handful of high schools across the country offering ornithology programs but Blundell’s programs are thriving, with more than 70 students enrolled this year. But while other schools might study birds, FHS is the only high school with its own aviary.

“I don’t know where the crazy idea came from, but someone said ‘Let’s have an aviary in the school,’” Blundell said. “It’s really good for the birds and it’s extremely good for the students. Farmington High has this cool opportunity that nobody else has.”

With no money in the budget to build an aviary, community leaders, local businesses and parents donated funds to get it off the ground. FHS Principal Richard Swanson suggested placing the aviary in the center of the school where it would be a focal point, as well as an educational outreach display, demonstrating ecology and conservation.

“It is amazing to have a teacher with the expertise to give our students such a wonderful, hands-on experience,” Swanson said. “We are so excited for the learning experiences that this aviary will bring to our students.”

The aviary will give students first-hand experience in caring for nearly two dozen birds. Students will learn about creating the proper environment for each species including plant life, lighting and food. A pair of colorful macaws live in the aviary, along with conures, grasskeets, canaries, lovebirds and rosellas. 

Collaboration with the school’s arts and computer departments helped design the aviary and created an interactive game that will be used to teach about the birds and their place in the ecosystem. 

Blundell invites teachers from other schools to bring students to the aviary where they will learn about the irreplaceable wetlands in Davis County, and the beautiful birds who call it home. 

“What we created is not just a birdcage but a top-of-the-line bird exhibit,” Blundell said. “A lot of the birds we get are rescue birds and coming to our school gives them the best life they could ever imagine.”

FHS senior Carter Hansen is a student in the advanced ornithology program, with a focus on the environment and conservation. As a sophomore, Hansen took the general ornithology class, thinking it would be easy. Turns out, he really likes birds and hopes to go into conservation as a career. Hansen plans to get a falconry license and own land where birds can have a safe place to nest.

He worries about the destruction of the Farmington Bay wetlands due to fire, human indifference and the Legacy Highway that runs through the bay. 

“The highway is going through the heart of the wetland. In my untrained opinion, it might disrupt migration,” Hansen said. “I think people just don’t know. I think it should be taught that animals are super important and we just can’t go building wherever we want.” 

Hansen said the Legacy Highway has a significant impact on the area as oil from vehicles seep into the waterway. Fish ingest the oil, eagles eat the fish and then the birds get sick or even die. He hopes as people learn about the birds, through the aviary project, they’ll be more sympathetic to the delicate ecosystem in the area.

Blundell’s ornithology programs have been an unexpected hit with students. Although FHS was designed to reflect the colors and movement of the bay, getting classes into the actual wetlands has opened career possibilities. Several bird-watching clubs have sprung up at the school with students going to Farmington Bay on their own time to watch birds nesting and migrating.  

A grand opening was held for the aviary at the end of October, but Blundell said this is just the beginning. The next fundraising project for the aviary will raise $10,000 for a toucan exhibit. The community can follow the aviary on Instagram @fhs.aviary where donations can be made through a link in the bio. Donations can also be made through the Davis School District’s DSD Give portal.