Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Kirsten Ward, left, and Frances Banta join group of educators at Tracy Aviary.

Utah students will soon get a peek into the lives of birds through a new Flying WILD program.

The program, sponsored by the Division of Wildlife Resources and Tracy Aviary, will let students delve into bird culture with hands-on activities such as building nests, testing the strength of eggs and eating food with various types of bird bills. Students will also study everything about birds from migration patterns to common phrases using bird metaphors such as "having all your ducks in a row."

Students will also learn about healthy ecosystems for birds and the economic impact birds can make.

"What they'll get out of it hopefully is a basic understanding of bird biology and bird conservation so that they can feel more connected and understand things in the natural world," said Diana Vos, Project WILD coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resource. "Kids aren't getting outdoors enough. If we can get kids reconnecting with nature, maybe they'll be more apt to realize their value, and when they get older they'll be more aware of conservation."

The first batch of bird educators received training in the new program in March at the Tracy Aviary and will soon begin training elementary teachers to implement the project in their classrooms. The trainers include members of HawkWatch, the Utah Audubon Society and the Friends of the Great Salt Lake.

Middle school students will also have a chance to become Flying WILD trainers, hosting bird festivals for younger elementary students.

Vos said the Flying WILD program is a branch-off from Project WILD, a 20-year-old program emphasizing conservation and environmental awareness. The bird program, she said, connects to state core curriculum in many ways, while also allowing students to gain expertise in a niche area of environmental science.

"Teaching kids about birds is a great way to get them excited about wildlife and their environment," she said. "Birds are colorful, they're all around us and they're fun to watch. "

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