Mother Goose is expecting under Fritsch Elementary School’s playground, and it could become an “unexpected” annual tradition if she decides to nest there again in the future.
Staff and students were surprised to find a Canadian goose and her mate picked her spot to build a nest and incubate her eggs some time just before or during spring break the week of April 3. Her mate has since left for now, but she keeps watch over her young at Fritsch along with some curious onlookers who are learning about her in their classrooms.
“It was pretty interesting because we’re the only class that does this,” Gavin Rojas, 10, a student in teacher Rachel Overstreet’s class, said. “We do a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities. This was an unexpected STEM project that we’re going to do.”
Fritsch Principal Dan Brown described the flock of geese that approached the school playground before spring break began.
“Two of (the geese) stayed and one was very aggressive with the students, and we were concerned it’d be a safety issue, so we talked with the Department of Wildlife who referred us to a biologist,” he said.
A Canadian goose recently chose the play structure at Fritsch Elementary School for her nesting spot. (Jessica Garcia photo)
The biologist suggested some methods, including a coyote decoy, to remove the geese as long as they were natural. But before school staff members could, they found the female had begun laying eggs under the school’s play structure. Brown said they notified the biologist.
“She had told us as soon as they lay eggs, they’re federally protected and you can’t remove them from their area until they hatch their eggs and decide to remove themselves,” Brown said. “We took a situation like that and turned it into positive one, and we had to fence off the structure. We talked to the kids about how we wanted to respect the geese out there and not interfere with what they were doing … and they were really great with that.”
Brown said ultimately it became a partnership between the mother and the students. She learned to accept the humans who became curious about her in her new home and they wanted to see that she was safe where she was.
Rachael Overstreet, among the teachers to apply the experience to their classroom, said she was “overly excited” to see her students learn the practical and biological skills from the goose and her babies. With three recesses a day, Fritsch’s student body has been spending time with the goose at every break, taking frequent peeks at their winged friend and learning about her life cycle in the process and completing writing projects or coming up with names for her.
“It’s nice to have authentic experiences in the classroom and there’s nothing more authentic than a goose laying eggs on the playground where they can study and observe it every day,” she said laughing.
Overstreet’s fourth grade students had a chance to complete their own collages of nests using materials they collected from home or through the help of others, she said. Using twigs, sticks, mud, rocks and paper plates, the students collaborated to build model homes birds or other animals might create in trees or on grounds.
Cooper Goodwater, 10, in Overstreet’s class enjoyed applying his creativity and objects from home for the project.
“It was really fun how we made it because we were able to use all the things we use outside,” he said.
Some students provided donations, such as cardboard boxes, for others in need, Overstreet said. She said she was proud of everyone for what they’ve learned from this experience with the goose.
As for the students and their accommodation for the Mother Goose-to-be, they say they’re happy to set aside their usual play routines to make sure she and her incoming babies are protected.
“We don’t really play on the play structure that much,” said Sadie Cusack, 10, another one of Overstreet’s students. “We play on the grass or we play basketball.”
“The kindergarteners or the first graders don’t mind (giving up the structure),” Rojas said.
Brown said he appreciates the district members from the operations department who installed the fencing to keep her family protected while she stays.
“It’s been a really great learning experience for everyone in the school,” he said. “We have a new guest on our playground.”