A group of Yarmouth Elementary School students recently learned an important lesson: If you advocate for what you believe in, you can save lives – in this case, the lives of feathered friends.

The students recently spearheaded an effort to make some of the school’s windows less hazardous for birds by installing Acopian BirdSavers, cords that hang over windows to alert birds that they aren’t safe to fly through.

Since the cords went up, right before the most recent spring migration, the school has not had any bird-window collisions, according to teacher Nicole Colfer.

Now, the students are being recognized for their work with an Award for Educational Excellence from BirdSafe Maine.

It all started in 2022, when Yarmouth fourth graders began taking a course about bird migration thanks to a collaboration between the school’s STEAM program and Maine Audubon.

Colfer taught the course with the help of a parent involved with BirdSafe Maine, a combined initiative of Maine Audubon, the Portland Society for Architecture and the University of Southern Maine that works to raise awareness about the problem of bird-window collisions.


Around the same time the course began, tragedy struck. A renovation at the school meant there were new windows near a wooded area, Colfer said. Because of “the reflection on our windows, a lot of birds will crash into (them) … killing a couple last year,” she said. There were also one or two deaths earlier this school year.

These types of collisions are not a rare occurrence. According to a 2014 paper in the journal “The Condor: Ornithological Applications,” an estimated 365 million to 988 million birds die each year due to impacts with buildings, particularly with windows.

Members of the fourth grade class became passionate about preventing the bird-window collisions moving forward. They first worked to apply for a grant from the Yarmouth Education Foundation, which reviews applications for funding for innovative educational initiatives, asking for funding to buy stickers that can be installed on windows. They also painted temporary murals on the windows in order to alert birds to the hazard.

When the grant didn’t pan out, some of the students, now fifth graders, wrote a letter to Superintendent Andrew Dolloff this past school year, asking for his help.

Dolloff wrote the kids back saying that he would. After doing some research, he agreed to purchase a set of Acopian BirdSavers. The entire project cost approximately $2,200, he said.

The BirdSavers look like thin black lines on a window, tipping off birds without obstructing light from coming in.

“Their (collective) voice was heard,” said Colfer, who called the experience a lifelong lesson in the value of advocacy.

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