PORTAGE | Jones Elementary School students are going to prove they give a hoot about some of their feathered friends.
Youngsters at the Portage school are raising money to adopt saw-whet owls through the Indiana Dunes State Park's owl banding program.
Indiana Dunes State Park naturalist Brad Bumgardner spoke to students Wednesday about the saw-whet owl and the banding program.
Next week, students will be doing everything owl-like, including dressing in owl costumes, wearing their pajamas like night owls and painting their faces to look like the creatures. For each activity, they'll donate money, from 25 cents to $1, to participate.
Each class or grade level that raises $25 will be able to adopt an owl that has been captured, banded and released by state park personnel.
Bumgardner told students that the small owls, one of eight owl varieties in the area, migrate through the dunes between Oct. 10 and Nov. 10. They set up nets and play the owl's "love song" to capture the bird. Once captured, it is weighed, measured and and its age determined before it is banded and released.
They keep track of the owls through Project Owlnet, which has some 100 stations across the country.
When an owl is recaptured at one of the stations, the data from the band is read and whoever has adopted that particular bird is notified of its whereabouts. Bumgardner said one owl was tracked 970 miles from the dunes in Maine.
Jones home school adviser Pam Carpenter said she was looking for a school-wide project that combine the environment and nature and would be local. A teacher brought the idea from a school at which she was previously employed.
In the classroom, Carpenter said, students will be working on owl-related projects from geography to math to reading stories.
The banding program, said Bumgardner, helps keep track of the migration patterns of the birds and gives naturalists an insight into their behavior.