Two days before summer break, many teachers struggle to hold their students' attention.
But Monday morning, Tracy Callard of Jackson Elementary had a dozen kids on full alert, staring into the tangled branches of an Osage orange tree.
In soft tones, she and Nathan Ofsthun instructed the students how to find the catbird with binoculars.
Monday's field trip to Chisholm Creek Park was one of many Callard's class of first- through fifth-graders made into natural areas in and around Wichita.
"It's so much better that we get to see things in real-life instead of in a book," fourth-grader Tristin Nguyen said as she walked from the scene.
Callard said the concept of education through birding came along by chance.
It was still winter when she met Ofsthun, who conducts outdoors programs for the Great Plains Nature Center.
Callard was drawn to Ofsthun's knowledge about the outdoors and willingness to share it with kids.
She took his offer to take the class on birding trips.
Many in the accelerated-learning class quickly fell for the sport.
"These kids are really into details and memorization," Callard said. "When you have them trying to differentiate if it's an eastern or western meadowlark they're looking at, those are some serious comparisons and details."
The birding trips also proved to be a great way to simply introduce kids to the outdoors.
Callard said many of the students hadn't spent much time outdoors before the class began the birding trips.
"You could tell some of the kids were kind of hesitant to even step off concrete when we started," Ofsthun said. "It took a while for some to get comfortable with some of the places we had to walk while birding."
Nguyen said about the only birds she was familiar with were domestic mallards before field trips.
Monday she recited a list of birds she'd spotted with her class.
"Painted buntings and indigo buntings were probably my favorites," Nguyen said. She also expressed a fondness for shiny cedar waxwings.
Being across the street from the school, Chisholm Creek Park helped Ofsthun and Callard get the students into good birding.
A $500 scholarship through the Nature Center paid for transportation on other trips and bought some birding materials for the class.
One full-day trip took the class to Oak and Pawnee Prairie parks in Wichita, and the Arkansas River near Derby.
As weeks passed, Ofsthun and Callard noticed increased numbers of students birding on their own time and getting their own equipment.
"Some were going at home but they were looking when just around the school," she said. "They'd be going along and one would say, 'There's a rock pigeon,' or 'There's an American robin.' They always use the proper names and they're almost always right in their identification."
Several students attended a Wichita Audubon Society meeting in March. Some awoke early enough for a sunrise birding walk one Saturday.
She hopes to take her classes birding for school years to come. That's largely because the time outdoors helps her when teaching indoors.
This year she used migration routes and habitat to better educate the kids on geography. Population dynamics fit well into her math lessons.
"You can fit birding into any academic area that you want and it's perfect," Callard said. "It engages them and gives them a reason to learn. It's great all the way around."