Lincoln teacher and her class setting out to improve conditions for barn owls in county

Lincoln Elementary School students (from left) Courtney Hale, Matthew Kline, Megan Landon and Antonio Villa Lopez unwrap and assemble cameras they plan to use to watch for activity in the barn owl nests the class is placing around the county. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Nov. 5, 2012.

Many state wildlife agencies consider barn owls to be an endangered species.

Julie Purdy, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, is setting out to improve conditions in Huntington for these nocturnal creatures.

Over the course of the 2012-13 school year, Purdy plans to educate her students about barn owls. She will take them on field trips to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo,
Fox Island Park and Salamonie Reservoir; build three barn owl nests and find places for them throughout Huntington County; and finally, track the nests using a tool called a trail cam, which will allow the class to collect photos of the nests and follow the patterns of owls that take up residence there.

Purdy says she has several goals for the project, including conducting research about the animal, studying their habitat and bringing the endangered animal to the region.

Beginning in October, her class is studying all apects of the owls - from their living habits to their diet, which Purdy says consists mostly of meadow voles.

She says her class will familiarize themselves with voles and the ways in which owls choose a nesting place.
Then, in January, she says she anticipates building and placing the nests in safe places throughout the community that will allow the owls a steady diet of voles and that will be far away from the dangers of man - such as a major highway.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says owls usually select a nest box in March or April. That's when Purdy's class will begin tracking the nests with the trail cams.

The project is being funded by a grant.

Purdy's fourth grade classroom is one of several recipients of a grant from the Ecolab Foundation Visions for Learning program. Her class received $2,600, which is part of a chunk of $33,125 that Ecolab donated to Huntington County Community Schools for the 2012-13 school year.

The funds will allow Purdy to buy the equipment needed to make and study her class's barn owl nests and fund the field trips to the zoo, reservoir and park.

For the last three years, her classroom has received an Ecolab grant that funded a "nature" project. In the past her class has built an outdoor classroom and a greenhouse, and she says the barn owl project goes hand in hand with the previous two projects.

Other Ecolab grants went to:

• Lincoln Elementary, $1,950 to Ashley Ransom, Courtney Hixson, Lori Kline and Sally Morrison for a first grade research center.

• Lincoln Elementary, $500 to Rebecca Livingston for the purchase of e-books.

• Lincoln Elementary, $3,000 to the school leadership team for phase two of the One Book, One School reading program.

• Roanoke Elementary, $1,800 to grade five teachers for reading materials.

• Salamonie School, $300 to Christy Neuenschwander, Heather Moore and Stefanie VerBryck for streak minerals collection and materials.

• Crestview middle school, $700 to Jodie Norwood for Scholastic Math Magazine.

• Riverview middle school, $3,000 to Deb Daugherty for the robotic kits project.

• Riverview middle school, $650 to Vicki Giordano for seventh grade science field trips.

• Riverview middle school, $3,000 to Christina Morris and Lisa Nightingale for the K'NEX Renewable Energy Kit.

• Huntington North, $200 to Chris Brisco for classroom signage.

• Huntington North, $1,900 to John Gardner for band instruments and smart music.

• Huntington North, $2,175 to Teri Fuller-O'Brien for Brentware Cart EX, shelves and cart.

• Huntington North, $1,700 to Beth Beery and Valerie Riddle for display boards, paper flower kits, DVD and crafts.

• Huntington North, $1,400 to Neysa Leichty for French immersion day.

• Huntington North, $1,900 to Ashley Gonterman for Logitech headsets.

• Huntington North, $2,350 to Shoshannah McKinney for Chinese dictionaries, camcorder and materials.

• Huntington North, $3,000 to Tiffanney Drummond for the Health Services Science Department.