As Aaron Maurer’s fifth-grade students worked at their computers last week, the sound of wind blowing into a microphone could be heard throughout their classroom at Bettendorf Middle School.
It was the same wind that was rustling the feathers of a bald eagle perched in a nest in a tree on the grounds of the Alcoa Davenport Works, as could clearly be seen on the projection screen in the classroom.
Now in its third year, the Alcoa eagle cam, which broadcasts a live feed of a pair of bald eagles, Liberty and Justice, as they tend to their nest, has exploded in popularity, Alcoa spokesman John Riches said. Visits to the eagle cam website grew from 1.5 million in 2011 to 12 million in 2012, and the site was named one of the top 25 most interesting webcams of 2012 by
Maurer’s fourth- and fifth-grade Extended Learning Program students from throughout the Bettendorf district are using the webcam as the basis of a collaborative project that includes students from schools around the country and the world, including North Carolina, Texas, Canada and the Netherlands.
The students have become regular observers of Liberty and Justice and their two eggs.
“It’s almost become like a soap opera,” Maurer said. “You find yourself constantly going back to look at it.”
The students also are teamed up with students from the other participating schools on projects relating to the eagles.
Maurer said the students have chosen their own themes for their research projects, from the structure of the wings to the laws and regulations that protect bald eagles.
Maurer’s students participate in live video chats with the other participating students or communicate online about their projects.
Fifth-grader Nick Schweizer said his group is working on a story about the lifespan of eagles, and he has enjoyed being part of the group.
“I think it’s fun to communicate with people far away,” he said.
Schweizer said being able to observe the nesting process has been useful for his group’s project,.
“It’s neat to watch and useful,” he said.
Fifth-grader Kaitlyn Walter said she decided to do a project about eagle myths and folklore.
“I’ve always been interested in Native Americans because their stories are interesting and creative,” she said.
Walter said her favorite Native American myth about eagles involves the eagle’s role in the creation of the Earth. The students will give final reports in a couple of weeks, which hopefully will coincide with the hatching of the eggs, “as long as Mother Nature cooperates,” Maurer said.