Sam Wilkins, student of the Village School of North Bennington, creates a life-size bird sculpture. Students have been sculpting local birds that they have
Sam Wilkins, student of the Village School of North Bennington, creates a life-size bird sculpture. Students have been sculpting local birds that they have studied for several months. The project, called The Birds and Buildings of North Bennington brings the students to different locations in North Bennington, where the birds they have studied make their nests. The students will present their birds and their literature about the buildings once the project is finished in June. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The sixth grade at the Village School of North Bennington has teamed with the Vermont Arts Exchange to create life-sized sculptures of local birds.

Sixth grade teacher Pat Gibbons said her students had been working over the last few months on a project studying the birds and buildings of North Bennington. The students separated into seven groups, of three students each, with each group choosing one local bird species and one historical building to study. Buildings included the Park-McCullough House, the Left Bank, the post office, and the North Bennington Train Station. Species of bird included the red-winged blackbird, the great horned owl, and the American woodcock (which, as one student explained, will dance to any song you play for it).

With the help of VAE co-founder Matthew Perry, the students created over the last two weeks models of their birds using Styrofoam. Once the models are done, the students will coat them in cement and paint them. Gibbons said she expects the sculptures to be completed next week. Once finished, the sculptures will be displayed at businesses and public spaces throughout North Bennington. "The students view this as an opportunity to give back to the community," said Gibbons.

This is not the first gift to the community the class has made during this project. When the class met with Bob Howe, who has done extensive research into the village's history, to learn more about the buildings they'd be researching, they surprised him by presenting a check for $75 to purchase a brick for the Lincoln Park fountain project, which Howe is heavily involved with.

According to Perry, the VAE does between three and four projects with classes from the Village School every year. Starting within the next few weeks, the fourth grade class will be creating totem poles to be displayed on the Park-McCullough property.

Gibbons stressed the importance of students learning about their local history, which she has had more freedom to teach since the North Bennington Graded School became the independent Village School. She said the project will likely culminate with a final project in which the students would write a poem or short story describing their building from their bird's point of view. "It will bring in a literary aspect to the project," she said.

Gibbons also praised Perry for his work with the students, both on this project and in the past. "He brings people together like nobody else," she said, "He really is goodness."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB