A local school is raising money to build a life-size eagle nest to serve as a learning tool for students and the community.
The project is a collaboration between local storyteller and nature guide Jim Pfitzer and The Barn at Lookout Lake, part of Wauhatchie School in Lookout Valley.
Pfitzer has worked on eagle nest projects at Rock City, Lake Guntersville State Park and Calvin Donaldson Elementary School, but wanted to find a way for the nests to serve as a longtime learning tool, something students could return to annually, just like eagle pairs return to their nests every year.
He found the perfect partner in Wauhatchie School. The nature-based school provides forest kindergarten programs for children ages 3 to 9 as well as home-school programs for 7- to 12-year-olds. The programs are focused on hands-on learning and are taught outdoors.
The school hopes to incorporate the eagle nest into a unit about birds in the environment, said Rebecca Westbrook Toker, a teacher at the school. She believes the nest will provide great opportunities to teach the history of birds of prey and how they've been endangered but now are coming back.
Unlike Pfitzer's other nest projects, which were placed in elevated locations to serve as a potential home for eagles, this nest will remain on the ground to serve as a learning tool. The kids will be able to continue to add to it or repair it as needed.
But the nest isn't just for Wauhatchie students.
"One of our biggest goals is to have it accessible for community programming," Westbrook Toker said.
One of the main goals of Wauhatchie School is getting more kids out in nature who otherwise might not have access to it, she said.
She is helping spearhead a fundraiser on GoFundMe to raise $1,450 to build the nest.
"Anybody who donates any amount is welcome to come out and be part of the project when we build the nest," she said.
As of press time, the fundraiser was a third of the way to its goal. The donations will go toward building a platform for the nest and hiring John Stokes and Dale Kernahan from Save Our American Raptors.
SOAR is a nonprofit based in Trenton, Ga., that cares for injured bird of prey. It also offers educational programs in schools.
Pfitzer works as a nature guide in Alaska for most of the year, so the nest is scheduled to be built in December when he returns to Chattanooga. This timing works out well, Westbrook Toker said, because it gives the community more time to raise money and because December is around the time when eagles build their nests.
In the meantime, the excitement at Wauhatchie has been growing, and students have begun gathering material for the nest.
"I have a 7-year-old that's obsessed with deadfall now," Westbrook Toker said.
To donate to the project, visit gofundme.com/eagle-nest-at-Wauhatchie.