Tim Wells

Kindergarten teacher Tim Wells at The Expedition School leads students in a rendition of the Eno the Emu song he made.

The case of the missing emu has taken hold of the entire Orange County community and even found its way into national outlets, including the New York Times. The missing bird that was first spotted in late June has become an Orange County sensation, and even picked up a nickname along the way—Eno the Emu.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that The Expedition School in Hillsborough has found a fun way to incorporate the bird into its curriculum for the current school term.

Trevia Woods, a kindergarten teacher at The Expedition School, has utilized her school’s location near the Eno River to have her students work on a project involving the now famous missing bird.

“We have such a lucky location in our school to be right on the Eno River and we’re kindergarteners, and so, animals are really exciting, and so I thought it would be a really great, high interest mystery for our kids to be engaged in and we love to do projects,” Woods said. “We have project-based learning in our school, so it seemed like a perfect fit. We’re still actually ongoing with it.”

The project has been a fun way to get students engaged with learning. Ms. Woods said it’s been a big hit for her students, and the class even has a video to accompany its project. Together, with some former students and parents, Woods put together said video, titled “Where is Eno the Emu.” 

The video begins with two former students posing as explorers asking where the missing emu is, then cuts to a kindergarten class. The teacher asks the students if they have heard of Eno the Emu and a few students excitedly raise their hands. One student says the emu weighs “as much as 100 bricks,” and another says “it might be a rooster.”

Later, the two explorers interview Velinda Hatcher, the President of The Expedition School Board to ask her if she can identify an emu. 

As the video progresses, the explorers continue to interview more teachers about the missing emu and Ms. Woods’ kindergarten class begins to explore outside. The class finds footprints and the students excitedly go on a scavenger hunt to find the elusive bird.

After some searching, the students find more footprints and even find a large bird’s nest. 

Eventually, a teacher shows one of the explorers an ostrich egg and the explorer then explains the difference between that egg and an emu egg. An emu egg is bigger and grayer than an ostrich’s egg, according to the explorer.

The students from Ms. Woods’ class continue to search for the emu, whereupon they find a note from the emu telling them they will have to try again to catch him.

The video, which lasts 7 minutes and 49 seconds, ends with the explorers saying they’ve spotted the emu and running off screen. Then, the students from Ms. Woods’ class pose with the cut out emu and it’s footprints. One final shot shows the cut out emu in the grass outside the school.

Ms. Woods said she got a lot of support for the video, and after it was approved by the administration, she saw it for the first time Tuesday.

One can see from the video that the students are having fun learning about the video, and Ms. Woods agreed. She says her students “seemed really engaged and really excited.”

Christie Norris, the Director of K-12 Outreach for the NC Civic Education Consortium, praised The Expedition School’s project-based learning system, specifically the project Ms. Woods is conducting for her class.

“Have you ever noticed how the eyes of a young child can light up in wonder over the most seemingly simplest of things?” Norris asked. “Project-based learning is all about harnessing those sparks of curiosity to ignite critical thinking and problem solving skills in the students. This approach to teaching and learning engages students of any age in meaningful projects  that are structured around a guiding question or challenge, where students assume active and collaborative roles in their learning. The traditional classroom of one dominating teacher’s voice transitions into a bustling space where every learner is invested. You see this happening in The Expedition School’s exploration of Eno the Emu. Simple questions of “What is an emu?” and “Where is Eno hiding?” turn into exciting and complex learning experiences, that students are literally jumping with excitement over.”

Now, Ms. Woods’ students will continue to have chances to get excited as they draw ever close to catching the elusive emu. 

“It’s still an ongoing project because my class is still trying to solve the problem,” Ms. Woods said. “We’re a STEM school as well, so we’re going to try and build things to catch it. It’s still ongoing, but that was really a lot of fun.”ongoing, but that was really a lot of fun.”