Glenwood Elementary School teacher Crystal Day’s fourth-grade students recently learned about the threats to the survival of barn owls in Illinois and decided to do what they could to help.

It all started when the students took part in Henson Robinson Zoo’s “Zoo to You” birds of prey presentation and learned how changes in land use in central Illinois have hurt the barn owl population. Emily McEvoy, who led the presentation, explained, “Barn owl populations in Illinois have dropped as a result of human actions. We have removed nesting sites like dead trees and barns, reduced and fragmented their grassland hunting territories and reduced prey population of rodents through the use of poisons.”

Day’s class used this subject matter for persuasive writing practice and created a presentation to spread the word to the rest of the school and the community. Soon, NatureKIN Network came on board to help the locate new nesting sites for the threatened species.

“Barn owls need short grasses to be able to forage,” said Terry Esker, Illinois Department of Natural Resources heritage biologist. “Large tracts of land with cool-season grasses, hayfields and pastures could be ideal habitat for the barn owl.” Though five new nesting boxes have been established in the area, their locations will not be disclosed in order to protect them from human interference. NatureKIN hopes to establish an additional 12 nesting boxes in Sangamon and surrounding counties. Anyone with 40 or more acres of grassland who would like to help should contact

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