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Nuts About Nature &
Operation RubyThroat
Real-time Audio/Video On-line Discussions

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No matter where your school might be, here's a chance for your students to "meet" on-line with a "real scientist" involved in a variety of natural history investigations and research.

Offered as education outreach through Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Nuts About Nature audio/video discussions provide an opportunity for K-12 classes to learn more about plants, animals, habitats, and natural phenomena in the Carolina Piedmont and beyond--including Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project.

Discussions are led by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr. (above left), author of This Week at Hilton Pond. He's an award-winning science educator who runs a National Science Foundation-funded project that encourages teachers to use hummingbirds as tools to excite students about science and cross-disciplinary learning (see the Operation RubyThroat Web site for details). Through Nuts About Nature, students can see and talk directly with Hilton in real time, asking questions about hummingbirds and other nature-related topics, getting guidance about student projects and nature journals, and even showing him nature artifacts for identification.


FOR MAC USERS (iChat/Messages):

  • Broadband Internet connection (NOT a dial-up)
  • Web cam & microphone (available inexpensively from various sources, including Wal-Mart; FireWire cameras work best, USB models should do)
  • .Mac or AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) account
  • Macintosh computer (G3, G4, or G5) running OS 10.X and iChat AV 3.X or above, or Messages

With the right equipment and sufficient bandwidth, iChat discussions are VERY easy to set-up. If you DO need assistance, ask your media specialist or school IT representative.

FOR iPHONE 4-5 & iPad 2-3 USERS (FaceTime):

With the iPhone 4-5 or iPad 2-3 (with camera), it is possible to set up a videochat "iPhone/iPad to iPhone/iPad." This simply requires our knowing your phone number (or e-mail address) so we can call at the appropriate time. We can also set up a FaceTime chat "iPhone/iPad to Mac" desktop computer (with Web cam and microphone) if you have the FaceTime software installed on the Mac desktop computer. Even better is a "desktop/laptop to desktop/laptop" Facetime connection, since it allows you to project with a digital projector. (Note: FaceTime requires a Wi-Fi connection if you use AT&T and will not work over a 3G network. Verizon accounts will work on Wi-Fi or 3G.)


We recently have started using Skype as a way to conduct AV Web chats with folks who do not have Macintosh computers or easy access to iChat. Skype is a cross-platform application you that works under both Windows and Mac operating systems. (All Skype-to-Skype calls are free.) You'll still need a Web cam and microphone as described above. Contact us as outlined below if you'd like to try using Skype for videoconferencing.


  • After you get your .Mac or AOL Instant Messenger or Skype screen name, send it to us at EDUCATION; in return, we'll E-mail you OUR screen name.
  • As an alternative for users of Windows machines, register with Skype and get a screen name to send us.
  • Arrange a time to set up the equipment and test the connection with us in advance, using the classroom or media center where your students will meet for the conference.
  • Schedule a 30- to 45-minute video chat for your students.


  • There is NO CHARGE for Nuts About Nature or Operation RubyThroat iChat, Skype, or FaceTime AV conferences.
  • If your school doesn't have Mac equipment for iChat, ask if one of your students or parents has a Mac laptop you can borrow for a Nuts About Nature AV discussion. (Or check out the possibilities for using your Windows-based machine with Skype. Some school servers block all these services and must be reconfigured temporarily to allow videoconferencing.)
  • Some teachers hook the computer to a digital projector to display the video portion so an entire class can easily watch the chat. Others simply gather everyone around the computer monitor.
  • With Hilton Pond Center's Mac as the originating hub for a live iChat session, up to THREE different classrooms or schools with Macs can be involved in the same Nuts About Nature or Operation RubyThroat, allowing for geographical comparisons. (Photos above show how two, three-, and four-way iChat AV conferences would appear on your monitor. Skype also allows multiple participants.)
  • Sessions are open to English-speaking classes ANYWHERE in the world. Students who don't speak English can also participate if a bilingual interpreter is available on-site or via iChat. (What a great way to link Operation RubyThroat participants with French-speaking Canadians, English-speaking U.S. students, and Spanish-speaking classes in Mexico & Central America!)
  • Neighborhood home-schooled groups are welcome, so long as at least TEN students are involved.
  • Only a limited number of Nuts About Nature and Operation RubyThroat time slots are available, so schedule yours soon.
  • This is all much simpler to do than it might seem, so give it a try!
All text, maps & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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If you like shopping on-line please become a member of iGive, through which 800+ on-line stores from Amazon to Lands' End and even iTunes donate a percentage of your purchase price to support Hilton Pond Center . Every new member who registers with iGive and makes a purchase earns an ADDITIONAL $5 for the Center. You can even do Web searches through iGive and earn a penny per search--sometimes TWO--for the cause! Please enroll by going to the iGive Web site. It's a painless, important way for YOU to support our on-going work in conservation, education, and research. Add the iGive Toolbar to your browser and register Operation RubyThroat as your preferred charity to make it even easier to help Hilton Pond Center when you shop.

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