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North Passaic Daily Voice serves Bloomingdale, Pompton Lakes, Ringwood, Wanaque & West Milford

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North Passaic Daily Voice serves Bloomingdale, Pompton Lakes, Ringwood, Wanaque & West Milford

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West Milford Teacher's Lessons Have Wings

West Milford High School teacher Coleen Weiss-Magasic, third to left, receives a grant to help fund a Boxes for Birds project. Other teachers who helped include Mary Kennedy, Stephen Beattie, Ian White, Ryan Heerschap and Leonard VanWinger.
West Milford High School teacher Coleen Weiss-Magasic, third to left, receives a grant to help fund a Boxes for Birds project. Other teachers who helped include Mary Kennedy, Stephen Beattie, Ian White, Ryan Heerschap and Leonard VanWinger. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Coleen Weiss-Magasic

WEST MILFORD, N.J. — Many more birds in West Milford have homes for the winter thanks to a class assignment at the high school.

The Boxes for Birds project brought several different classes together at West Milford High School, according to longtime teacher Coleen Weiss-Magasic.

The assignment started with AP and special education environmental science classes determining what birds live on campus. Geometry students designed the birdhouses and passed it to the computer-aided design class to make blueprints. Finally, the woodshop class crafted the boxes, Weiss-Magasic said.

"Every student that was involved in the project refers to the nesting box as 'theirs,'" she told Daily Voice. "Whether they selected the bird, came up with the design, or constructed the actual box. That ownership is so powerful. It is a motivator and it gives students buy-in. I love how connected these students felt."

The project was funded through a grant from the Frederick L. Hipp Foundation. The school received the grant again for next year and will look to expand the project, Weiss-Magasic said.

In addition to birds, the students will likely build homes for bees and bats next time.

Weiss-Magasic has taught at West Milford for 21 years. Her colleagues' help with the bird project was one of her favorite parts.

It all came together to provide a valuable lesson for students, she said.

"I think there is often a disconnect for students between what they do in school and real life," she said, "and because of that it has always been my mantra to be able to answer the 'why do we need to know this' question."

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