Birdhouses benefit builders, bluebirds at Copeland

By David Broyles

February 28, 2014

DOBSON — The Boys Club bluebird house building project at Copeland Elementary is an example of a handicraft benefiting the carpenter and the feathered homeowner.

Many of the boys in the social group were selected last year by teachers and are mentored by school psychologist Randy Mays and migrant recruiter-teaching assistant Gerardo Linares, who explained students of migrant families often find themselves in a tough transitional period as they attend school. He said the children, who are American citizens, often are in the care of parents or grandparents who are not.

Linares wife, Aljandra, is the bi-lingual coordinator for parents in the Surry County Schools for migrant education and also helps with similar outreach efforts in the system. Linares explained migrant families stay for years in an area and often find themselves trying out how to honor their Hispanic cultural traditions while conforming to popular, American cultural trends.

“Our program here has no official title. We started in May with fourth-grade boys we felt needed positive behavior role models,” said Linares. “We help them learn the importance of setting goals by using math and science skills for a project. The Bluebird House build project was a natural thing since they are our mascots.”

He said another goal of the group is to hammer home the concept of consequences to the participants. He said if they misbehave in class they could not attend the club meeting, so not all of the eight birdhouses were built at the same time. Three were recently installed at the school, decorated in a variety of themes. The remainder were taken home by the young carpenters.

The Linares are U.S. citizens and can attest to the rigors of gaining citizenship.

“I think another important part of the club is I speak to them in Spanish, of course, because Spanish is my native language,” said Linares. “It’s important to have someone in school often to help the parents as well. This is a tricky thing for them (students) — they speak English at school and Spanish at home to mom and dad. They have found often speaking Spanish in school is not so good, but their parents want them to keep going with their culture or they will loose their heritage.”

Linares and Mays both agreed social interaction through playing soccer and other club projects has allowed more stability, continuity and confidence for the seven participants.

“I tell them who you are depends on who says you can do it,” Linares said. “I am convinced of this through my own experience. You (children) sometimes don’t have someone who is not family to say they can do this. All it takes sometimes is for someone to say they believe they can go to college if they want to.”

He also said the schools in the central district have found using his language skills on the telephone calling system has been effective getting the word out to migrant student families, who because of international education systems, can speak but not read or write their native language. The phone calls in Spanish and English are their way of being connected with what is happening at school.

“The boys were so excited to get to do this. Our main thing is to get them outside — putting the remote down and building something with their hands,” said Mays. “One of them found out they could get wooden pallets and that set them to thinking. It was beautiful (to see). They are now thinking what else could they do, like doghouses or chicken coops. It’s important we are there for them. They must know they are important. They are our kids. That’s why we are here.”

He said participants’ grades are improving since joining the club.

Students participating in the club are Mario Cortes, Jason Rodriguez, Victorino Rodriguez, Joan Valladares, Alexander Rayo, Eduardo Armenta and Anthony Guevara.

Mays said in addition to the benefits of learning the life cycle of the birds, the group also received educational materials, bird seed, a window mounted feeder and binoculars from Pennington Bird Seed in recognition of their house building efforts. He said the school is in the running for a grant to establish a small wildlife garden and water feature at the school as well.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on Twitter @MtAiryNewsDave.