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Hamilton High students study birds at Teller

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CORVALLIS, Mont. - After such a long winter we're finally seeing signs of spring.

All through those cold, snowy months seniors at Hamilton High School prepared to welcome migrating birds back to the Bitterroot. They're part of a specialized course called Classroom Without Walls.

Teacher Birch Fett and his students delivered birdhouses they built over the winter to the Teller Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis.

Fett is a math teacher with a background in wildlife biology.

Take a look at the sweeping view of the refuge and you see what he means when he talks about his classroom without walls.

"Classroom Without Walls is a program set up to get kids to experience the outdoors," he said.

Besides learning a little carpentry the students learned to identify local bird species and their habitat.

"We had skills all across the board," said Fett. "With my math background we have looked at data and migration patterns."

"It's cool," said student Emilee Mosbrucker. "You learn these things in the classroom and then you go out in the field and practice them in real life."

Hundreds of bird species can be found at Teller. On Tuesday we could hear some of them, but didn't see too many -- yet.

The students know that will change. They found fence posts and snags to hang their brand new houses on. They will provide a cozy place for many of the travelers to live when they arrive.

"The blue birds are coming back," said Guy Schreckendgust, "and other spring birds."

The Hamilton senior has been studying birds his entire life. He said this project is good preparation for college.

"I want to go into wildlife biology and probably study at Montana State University," he said, "and minor in ornithology."

Once the birds arrive, the Classroom Without Walls will continue to monitor the wildlife area.

They will return periodically to see what kinds of species arrive in the new houses.

"And they'll learn what habitats are better for which species of birds," said their teacher.

Emilee Mosbrucker plans to work on a trail crew for the Forest Service this summer. She said being at the refuge is an education in itself.

"Definitely," she said. "It makes you more aware of the world around you."

In April the students will bring larger birdhouses to the refuge to provide housing for wood ducks.

Fett's students began the year during the first semester at Hamilton High studying fish in his classroom without walls.

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