A few months ago, I learned that my class had been chosen in a raffle to receive a visit from the Operation Migration team. In November, we waited eagerly as the whooping cranes moved closer to Chicago. The cranes remained grounded in Winnebago County, Illinois for seven days until finally on November 18th, the strong and bumpy winds subsided and the cranes took flight - a 55 miles trip to LaSalle County. Late that afternoon, I received a call from Heather Ray. The team would arrived the next day!
Team member Heather Ray and pilot, Joe Duff, pulled-up in an official O.M. van that we could see from our third floor classroom window. They spent a couple hours in the classroom and the kids were able to get many of their questions answered. We learned first-hand what it was like to fly with the birds. The children tried on the handler's costume and the crane puppet, held a replica of a whooping crane egg, and heard tales of their "adopted" whooping crane chicks. It was a wonderful experience and one we won't soon forget!
After the visit, the excitement and giddiness lingered. We bragged to our families, friends and colleagues. Sure the Obamas attended our school, but we met Joe Duff! I have continued to keep in touch with Heather and know that this study will be an annual part of my curriculum. My own interest in helping these amazing birds has only grown. Jane Duden of Journey North graciously posted a slideshow of the O.M. visit so others could experience it virtually. Enjoy and maybe you can join the conservation effort next year!