On the Eve of Violet’s Rescue, A Teaching Moment at NYU Steinhardt

The New York Times reported today that on Thursday afternoona specialist will try to take Violet, the red-tailed hawk, from her nest on the 12th Floor of Bobst Library to remove the metal wildlife identification band which has apparently caused her leg to swell.

Michael Bopp, from the Department of Environmental Conservation, who was interviewed for the Times’ article, indicated that there was a “slim chance that the hawk will be able to be returned to the nest.”

On the eve of Violet’s medical emergency, Mary Leou, director of Steinhardt’s Environmental Conservation Education Program at NYU, reflected on what the red tailed hawks and their hatchling have taught us.

“The world watched and learned that the balance between humans and nature is delicate in any environment,” Leou said. “Bobby and Violet have given us a unique look into the challenges hawks face– from the plastic bag that got snared in the nest to the metal wildlife band that was placed on Violet’s leg.”

And then there was the deeply affecting video of Violet regurgitating bits of a dead rat into her hatchling’s mouth.

The Hawk Cam — the live video feed — was a topic of discussion for Leou’s graduate students who saw firsthand how technology can connect people to natural phenomena and how social media can be used to educate the public, as well as disseminate content about wildlife in the city.

The birds also became the topic of investigation in classrooms across the city where children were encouraged “to discuss, debate, and make predictions while learning about their urban environment,” Leou said.

Leou worked with Rebecca Light, a visiting assistant professor, and her early childhood education class, to incorporate environmental literacy into their curriculum. She used the red-tailed hawks to teach NYU graduate students about city birds, taking them on a birding field trip to Central Park. She also visited Battery Park City School (PS 276) and worked with first grade teachers to incorporate the hawk family into their Roots and Shoots service learning program.

“Bobby and Violet have showed us that, yes, there is wildlife in New York City,” Leou said. “They’ve given us all a profound glimpse into the lives of hawks. Thousands of people were attracted to the web cam because they were intrigued, motivated, and captivated by nature. The lessons we learned transcended traditional classroom learning.”

Leou and NYU Steinhardt wish the DEC success in their heroic endeavor.

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The Environmental Conservation Education and the Early Childhood Education programs are in Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning.

Visit the Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education website to find teaching resources and learn about current environmental education programs for teachers.

(Photos: Violet and Bobby in their nest; Violet’s swollen right leg.)