Four Directions Fund Grant Recipient: Emerson UUC Nesting Box Project Creates Healthy Habitats

In 2017, GIPL was pleased to provide a seed grant through our Four Directions Fund to Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church. One of ten grant recipients, Emerson UUC has a vibrant Green ministry that engages people of all ages. This past year, the congregation took on a nesting project, creating nesting houses for a variety of animals.
The Nesting Box project kicked off on April 15, 2018 with a team of about twenty-six Emersonians assembling ten nesting houses for bats, birds, and flying squirrels.   About half of the assembly team were kids from the Emerson Religious Exploration (RE) program who were assisted by parents, grandparents, RE teachers, and friends, who made up the other half of the team.
The nesting boxes were presented to the kids as kits to assemble.  Along with the kit was a picture of and information about the creatures that would inhabit the nesting box.
Sonya Wood Mahler, Naturalist and Environmental Educator with The Garden School Marietta, assessed the Emerson wetlands and forest then suggested a list of animals for nesting boxes.  Carl Kennedy, member of the Emerson Environmental Task Force planning team and RE parent, built ten nesting box kits each designed to attract a particular species and presented them for (relatively) easy assembly by the kids and their adult assistants. The boards were cut, sanded, and marked with instructions and holes were pre-drilled for outdoor fastening screws.
After assembly, the child added their personal blessing to the nesting box by writing the end of the sentence that begins “My hope for the [species of bird/bat/squirrel] that lives in this nest is: ____________”.  Examples were, “….stay warm and dry” and “live a long life” and “I hope they are not too fat to fit into this skinny bat house.”

At the Earth Day Sunday service, April 22nd, the kids who assembled the nesting boxes presented a Show and Tell and then each read their blessing to the congregation as part of the Story For All Ages segment of the service.  A very short blessing ceremony followed, led by Emerson RE teacher, Mark Cobb.  Mark’s personal story and demonstration of how he whistles bird calls to communicate with birds held kids’ and adults’ gleeful attention.
Nesting boxes were made for Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Carolina Wrens, Screech Owls, Carolina Chickadees, and Barred Owls.  All of these species can live in Cobb County, where Emerson UUC is located.  Some of these populations are in decline in the Eastern U.S.  The thirteen acres of Emerson forest and wetlands are an Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary and a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, thanks to the good work of and partnership with The Garden School Marietta.  The nesting boxes and maintaining a healthy wildlife habit on our property will encourage and promote the species that are in decline in our part of the world.
Nesting Boxes were also made for bats and flying squirrels.  The bat houses proved to be the most challenging for kids and adults, as they had to be assembled from the front and the back at the same time.  Through a bit of team work, all nesting boxes were successfully assembled.
Following the Earth Day service, the nesting boxes were displayed in the Church Narthex at Emerson for several weeks.  They were installed around the Emerson forest and wetlands as part of the Environmental Task Force and Buildings and Grounds collaborative event on May 5th, Emerson Beautification Day.
Each nesting box was placed in a location favored by the species for which the box is designed as recommended by Sonya Wood Mahler.  For example, the Flying Squirrel boxes were placed twenty-five feet off the ground in a tree with a branch near the box entry whereas the Carolina Chickadee nesting boxes were placed as low as four feet off the ground and mounted on a fence post.  The Bat house was placed over 16 feet off the ground with an entry point facing a clearing.
Once the nesting boxes were installed, the installation team led the other 25 Emerson Beautification Day participants on a showcase tour of the Nesting Box installations throughout the Emerson wetlands.
This project was a collaboration of the Emerson Environmental Task Force, the Emerson Religious Exploration Program, the Emerson Buildings and Grounds Committee, and the Garden School Marietta.  Funding for this project was made possible by a Four Directions Fund grant from Georgia Interfaith Power and Light.
To qualify for funding from the Four Directions Fund, you and others from your faith community can sign up for a Sacred Activism workshop offered by GIPL.  All participants that complete the workshop are eligible to apply for a seed grant of $300 which can be used to fund your special project. To learn more, visit