Monday, March 19, 2012

In the Hood

Each year, my husband's science students read My Side of the Mountain. The main character in the book is Sam Gribley, a boy in his early teens.  For a year, Sam lives in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. One day Sam spies a peregrine falcon pursuing  its prey. Sam determines he wants a falcon as a hunting bird; so, he goes to the nearby town of Delhi to learn about falconry (hunting small game by using a trained bird of prey) by searching books at the local library.  For several days, he camps near a cliff hoping to find the location of a peregrine falcon nest. While the mother bird attacks him, Sam steals a female chick from the nest.  He names the bird Frightful, and it becomes one of Sam's closest companions. 

A Peregrine Falcon
If you are acquainted with falconry, you know that peregrine falcons will wear a hood to keep them calm and to make certain they are alert for the falconer. The falcons are also trained to go into hunting mode once the hood is removed.  A good falcon hood does not bother the falcon. If it fits well, it does not damage the bird’s feathers or hamper its breathing. Under no circumstances does the hood come in contact with the falcon’s eyes.  Out of all the falconer's aids, the hood is the most important piece of equipment. In the book, Sam makes jesses (leg straps), leashes and a hood out of deer skin for Frightful.  My husband figured if Sam could construct a falcon hood, then maybe his students could as well.

Using the Internet, (Hood Patterns) my husband found several hood patterns.  (Most hoods are custom made by hand and can cost $150 or more!)  We purchased faux leather from the fabric store as well as special needles and thread.  The students practiced sewing on scraps of the material before cutting out their own patterns and sewing them together.  Below is a summary of the process in pictures.

What makes every hood unique is that each falconer decorates the hood in an extraordinary way. They may use elaborate feathers, pieces of colored leather, ornaments, etc.  Sometimes, they are even hand painted, dyed, or uniquely tooled.  Here is what a few of the handmade hoods looked like after the  students decorated and embellished them.
Overall, this was a successful book assignment which was not only creative and imaginative, but it gave the artistic students a chance to shine.  As a result, you might want to try this project in your classroom as well.  So I wish you good luck, good reading, and good hood making.

Here are two supplementary resources for My Side of the Mountain.
  1. Two Word Searches - The first puzzle is more challenging.  It lists clues instead of the hidden words so the student must determine what the word is before finding it on the grid.  Also, in this puzzle, is a hidden message.  When the 14 words are found, the hidden message appears from left to right.  The second puzzle is a standard word search where a list of 17 words must be located in the grid.  After the words are uncovered, a hidden message can be read from left to right. 
  2. A Crossword Puzzle - Highlights 17 different birds which appear in the book My Side of the Mountain.  The 17 clues are based on the bird’s unique characteristics, color, and song.  Page numbers where the answers may be found in the book are added to most of the clues so that the book can be used as a reference. 

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