Clarkdale Teacher Uses Pigeons As Learning Tool

Clarkdale teacher Ronnie Shumaker has long used pigeons to help his students learn.

Students race their pigeons against the birds of other students and teachers, and learn important academic skills in the process.

They write letters to other pigeon racers and use math and computers in tracking the animals.

Shumaker said the learning is most valuable because it's hands-on.

"The technology they're using, they're on their iPhone; they're on their iPad. They're on their Facebook," said Shumaker. "And they're getting disconnected from nature and the things that they learn from having animals and pets."

"I've always loved animals but being able to interact with the pigeons and being able to help feed them and stuff, it's just pretty much taught me a new respect for them," said 7th grader Kendall Robinson.

The pigeon racing has even attracted the attention of documentary filmmaker Jim Jenner of Philipsburg, Montana, who visited the campus.

"This one (program) is significant in that he has shown wonderful progress with academics," said Jenner. "There are other programs, a school program in Belgium where they have used it with children with autism to help them connect to nature."

Jenner said his interest in what Shumaker's students have done over the years is heightened because the data is so well documented.


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