Our lives revolve around a continuous series of STEM challenges from storing items in our homes, traveling to different events, or bird watching in our free time.

Yes, bird watching. Bird watching is a hobby of mine, and maybe it is for you too. Over the last year, I have been building a bird habitat in my yard. With each new feature I add, a feeder, special seed, birdbath, etc, I find a new STEM challenge awaiting. One of those that seems to be never-ending is the appearance and nuisance of squirrels. I love squirrels, but they damage my feeders and scare away the birds for which I am building this habitat in my yard.

I try to find new ways to serve both bird and squirrel populations in my yard through different feeder configurations, food types, and devices. This requires a lot of time, patience, and focus to try new ideas, investment in learning and modifying ideas. I have spent time researching through books about birds and websites dedicated to environmentally friendly habitat creation that serves both birds and squirrels without causing harm to either.

Squirrels are incredibly resilient beings; I have observed them holding on by one foot while using tremendous core strength to reach a swinging bird feeder that’s nearly out of their reach. Just today, one of the squirrels in my little ecosystem noticed a change I made in the suet feeder, it now had spice included which are meant to deter squirrels from the feeder. This squirrel noticed the change and stood on its hind legs staring me down as I observed from the other side of a large glass window. At one point, it raised a paw and I can only imagine the thoughts it was attempting to convey to me as I was the culprit, the one who changed the food to an undesired squirrel treat.

In building a bird habitat, there is no quick answer. It requires dedication and resilience in seeking answers, modifying attempts, and noting results of each attempt to create the ideal environment. This is STEM to a tee.

Science: observing birds, learning their behaviors, their feeding habits and desired habitat features
Technology: researching through books and internet resources
Engineering: constant re-evaluation of materials I am using, designing the layout of my bird feeders, and testing different types of feeders and bird food
Math: Measuring distances between my house and different bird feeders and bath setups

This process, this STEM challenge is very real, and can be frustrating as I work to find solutions. It brings me joy, laughter, and experience in creative thinking and problem solving. Most of all, it reminds me that STEM is happening all the time, all around me and the more I think about that, the more I see that we are all scientists, engineers, and problem solvers!

Anonymous