SHIRLEY -- Page Hilltop Elementary School Principal Fred Deppe told Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee members last week that some of his first-grade students would be taking them on a bit of a safari.
The school's first-grade teachers had just closed down their students' Habitat Museum, which was open for viewing for several days. Every first-grade student had researched an animal and recreated its habitat, and five students, one from each class, had come to the School Committee meeting to present their projects.
"It is a very successful program," said first-grade teacher Jan France of the annual museum event. She explained that the school invites the parents to visit the museum and that it ties in with the curriculum. Each year the projects change, and the students complete them at home.
France's student Leah Norton was the first class representative to make a presentation to the committee. Her research and diorama were on the prairie dog. She explained to the committee that the prairie dog's North American habitat is grassland, and that it is about the same size as a rabbit. It makes its home using dirt, creates an underground burrow, eats grass and insects, and looks for grass seeds, roots and bugs.
"The prairie dog is very afraid of hawks, its natural enemy. It will hide in its burrow," Norton said. The most interesting fact she learned about prairie dogs is that "they kiss each other."
Jocelyn Testa's student Leah Morse offered her presentation on the roadrunner. She said that they are about the size of a newborn baby, and that they live in North America in nests in cacti, bushes or low trees. They make their homes with sticks and eat rattlesnakes and lizards.
"The roadrunner finds its food by running. The roadrunner is very afraid of house cats, its natural enemy. It will outrun them to stay safe," said Morse. Some interesting facts she shared about the bird are that roadrunners sound like crickets and live for seven to eight years.
Rachel Wentworth's student Nia Fleurancois did her report on the Eastern cottontail rabbit. The North American animal lives in the deciduous forest in hollow logs or unused burrows and eats grass, peas and lettuce, she said. The cottontail grazes at night, and to escape its enemies -- foxes, hawks and owls -- it will run in a zigzag and hide.
Davina D'Ambrosio's student Sophia Andrade told the committee about Queen Alexandra's birdwing, the world's largest butterfly, which has a wingspan of about 12 inches and lives in Papua New Guinea. The females are brown and white, and the males are bluish-greenish and black, Andrade said.
"It flies from plant to plant and collects nectar. It is very afraid of some spiders and small birds, its natural enemies. As a caterpillar, it eats poison leaves, so when a predator tries to eat it, it will get very sick," she explained.
Shawn Morandi's class representative was Preston Campanev, who did his research on the humpback whale.
"The humpback whale is about the size of a bus," he stated. It lives in the ocean and loves to eat plankton and small fish. It finds its food by opening its mouth in the water. An interesting fact about it is that it has two blowholes.
After Deppe played a short video of the habitat museum for the School Committee, Campanev inquired about the Shirley Public Access Television camera being used throughout the meeting. When someone explained its purpose, Campanev let out a yell.
"It's going to be on TV! Oh, my goodness! So part of the world is gonna see it!?"
Yes, the teachers explained. Part of the world would see it.