Manassas museums 10/25/00



with diversity: Falconers introduce schoolchildren to Saudi culture


Lucy Chumbley



    HERNDON Four falconers from the Virginia

Falcons Association visited Herndon’s Nysmith School for the Gifted on Friday

with their feathered friends in tow.

They were invited to the school by parent Nassmah Brooks, a Manassas

resident whose four children attend the school.

Brooks organized a recent International Festival at the school to celebrate

its cultural diversity. She has been introducing the children to the culture

of her own country, Saudi Arabia, where falconry is a traditional sport.

“One quarter of Saudi Arabia is desert,” Brooks explained

to students who sat cross-legged on the floor in Nysmith’s packed auditorium.

“Falconry is best suited for desert weather.”

She told the children how Saudis go out on camels to hunt with hawks.

Four birds were on display: a Harris hawk, a Red-tailed hawk, a Barbary

falcon and a Peregrin falcon.

“Oooooooh,” said the children as the birds squawked and flapped

their wings. Some copied the bird noises they heard: “Choop choop choop.”

Kent Knowles gave a 15-minute presentation on the history of falconry

while the Harris hawk – tethered to his wrist – hopped around on the floor.

“He thinks I’m his family, so everytime I go near him he is squawking

and jumping up and down and wanting to play,” he told the children.

“They are not pets, they are hunters,” he explained. “They

are basically wild birds in their actions.”

He spoke of the dedication and committment involved in working with


“You cannot have a bird and ignore it,” he said. “Believe

me, it’s very hard to find hawk sitters in the Yellow Pages.”

Knowles got out his Red-tailed hawk next. The Red-tailed hawk is native

to the area.

The hawk, a 4-year-old female with a five-foot wing span, flew to his

hand from a nearby perch to whoops of glee from the children – and a chorus

of “Shhhh” from the teachers.

Children eagerly raised their hands to ask questions: “How fast

do they fly?” “How sharp are their claws?” “Why do they

flap their wings?”

Knowles ended the presentation by aking the children to be aware of

their habitat and to care for the environment.

“It’s a perfect curriculum tie-in,” said fifth-grade teacher

Abigail Lewit. “We’re about to start reading ‘The Sword in the Stone,’

about King Arthur and falconry and all that medieval stuff.”

Contact Lucy Chumbley at [email protected]



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