Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

By William Biersach (’22)

October 12, 2021

Why are there birds in the STEM building?

It’s impossible not to notice the large birds on the walls of the STEM building. You may have seen the Great Egret or the American Kestrel, among many other birds on posters in the hallway of the STEM building. Many of you may have even stopped, surprised to see such realistic renditions of birds in the hallway, and asked yourselves, “Why are these posters here?” We have Holly Wilcox to thank for that. The current junior made these posters as drafts for a nature trail project she has been working on.

Did Holly Draw These?

Yes, Holly drew all of these bird images. Holly loves to draw lots of different animals, so drawing these birds was natural for her. She began by drawing these birds simply on paper. She then scans her drawings onto the computer and uses Adobe illustrator to color the images and to convert them into vector graphics. Vector graphics are best for Holly’s drawing since they allow her to size up or down freely. 

Why Did She Draw The Birds?

Holly has been working on an independent project to achieve the Gold Award within the Girl Scouts. The Gold Award is the highest achievement possible in the Girls Scouts, and to achieve it, one has to complete a project that betters the larger community with a focus on sustainability. Holly chose to create trail panels with information about wildlife. The birds in the STEM building are a draft of these panels that Holly printed on poster board. The final draft of these birds exist on super-high quality panel boards. Holly had no use for the draft posters, so her art teacher suggested that she post them in the STEM building. Some of her posters are downstairs and some of them are upstairs.

How did Holly Pay for the Expensive Panels?

The fancy trail panels are built to last for ten years. The material that the panels are printed on are very expensive, but fortunately, Holly received a number of grants in order to fund her project. One such grant comes from the Jack Linger Explorer Grant. She was one of six Durham Academy students to receive the grant for an independent study. The grant honors the memory of Jack Linger, who was a strong advocate for sustainability and climate change.

What Information Is On the Signs and Where Does It Come From?

Holly’s panels and panel drafts include lots of information about the various birds. She includes facts about what the bird songs sound like, how they care for their young, their diet, habitat, and much more. Holly conducted most of her research using Cornell Labs Ornithology. She consulted the Texas Bluebird Society for her panel about bluebirds. The president of the society read the panel, edited it, and provided the society’s stamp of approval that Holly actually included on the sign.

Did Holly Get the Gold Award?

Yes! Holly’s project of designing, drawing, creating, and installing the nature trail panels earned her the Gold Award for Girl Scouts. On her project blog she said, “I am so relieved and happy that my Gold Award is finally complete.” 

Grand Opening and Importance

Yesterday, the 10th of October, Holly attended the grand opening of the nature trail she worked so hard to help create. Her project serves the Pure Hope Foundation, which helps support families who have suffered from sex trafficking. She intends for her nature trail to be helpful natural therapy. She has turned over the trail to the custody of the Pure Hope Foundation. She received a plaque from the Pure Hope Foundation that honors her hard work on the trail.


So, the next time you walk through the STEM building, look up. See the posters Holly created, and really take a look. The drawings embody talent, creativity, and even humor. Holly’s project exemplifies the opportunities each Durham Academy student has at their disposal and ought to be a source of inspiration to us all. 

Check out Holly’s independent project blog to find out more:


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