Students put math skills to the test with birdhouse building project

By Ben Holbrook | May 16, 2017
Photo by: Ben Holbrook Bill Schofield explains to a group of students May 9 how to build birdhouses. Students in Colleen Johnson's math classes will be constructing birdhouses as part of their geometry unit.

Searsport — Math, to many students, can seem like an abstract subject, especially in a world where answers are often just a few keystrokes away.

But at Searsport Middle School, students in Colleen Johnson's eighth-grade math classes are taking a more hands-on approach to learning. Johnson is starting a geometry unit with her students to finish out the school year and wanted to find a way to demonstrate how what they are learning in the classroom can be applied in other facets of life.

That's where Bill Schofield entered the picture. Schofield, who lives in northern Maine, builds a wide array of houses for birds native to the state, which include wrens, purple martins, chickadees, tree swallows and downy woodpeckers.

Schofield's presentation to students mainly focused on how he designs and constructs the birdhouses. He emphasized how it important precise measurements and angles are when building the houses.

Over the next few weeks, students will research various bird species and then select one for which they will build a house. As part of the project, Johnson said students will have to write a statement explaining what bird they chose, what part of the state the bird is found in and the best birdhouse for that species.

Once all of that work is completed, students will draw, to scale, a prototype of the birdhouse before they actually build it.

A selection of Schofield's birdhouses. (Photo by: Ben Holbrook)
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