Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsor:
The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.
Over 3,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv.
A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."
Flying WILD City Partners Meeting - McAllen, TX
Flying WILD City Partners from across the United States gathered in McAllen, Texas in February for the 2011 Flying WILD City Partners' Meeting. The meeting was held in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, home to more than 600 species of birds. New and veteran City Partners learned, taught, shared, networked, exchanged ideas, generated new approaches and were inspired by the discussions and meeting events.
Other highlights included a wonderful trip to World Birding Center sites,and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a 2,088 acre refuge established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds and considered the 'jewel' of the Refuge System.
This year's conference was generously sponsored by the Katyee Avian Foundation. Thank you to all the Flying WILD City Partners who attended the 2011 meeting!
This year's theme, "Imagine What Flying WILD Can Do," aimed to encourage and excite Flying WILD City Partners and facilitators to advance their Flying WILD bird education program to a new level. From facilitator engagement to web-based trainings - fresh ideas were hatched in McAllen.
Participants were guided to think outside-the-box and re-envision their Flying WILD program to achieve new levels of engagement and training with their community of educators. Featured sessions included facilitator engagement, school bird festivals, fundraising, partnering with universities, and connecting families with nature.
Essentials for Reaching Diverse Audiences Through Birds Part II: Opportunity
by Paul Baicich and Flisa Stevenson
Photo of John C. Robinson, author of Birding for Everyone
In the previous issue of the BEN Bulletin, we mentioned that making successful bird-education connections to communities of diversity would require consideration of five elements:
- Repeated trips
- Ongoing support
Here we will touch on examining the first: Opportunity. For us, "opportunity" means accessibility to the resource, birds and bird habitat, time to devote to discovery and exploration, and access to support.
Economic factors are often cited as elements which reduce these opportunities in communities of diversity. And this can be very true. Unfortunately, "economics" can also be the excuse for not making any efforts in the first place, the "reason" that failure is perpetuated. (While it is clearly a barrier, economics does not seem to factor with as much frequency when the pastimes of music or multiple sports are considered in many of these communities.)
Barriers to opportunity take many different forms for both youth and adults. For youth it may be mere access to rich bird habitats in parks and refuges; for adults it may be an issue of time (as distinct from economics). Since these barriers to opportunity are to be overcome within communities of diversity, special efforts must be made to understand them.
Barriers to opportunity will also vary for different communities. Simple comfort levels cannot be discounted. For some African-Americans it may be overcoming a well-founded aversion to being alone in the woods. For Latinos it may be language-related cultural barriers (and don't assume that what works for Mexican-Americans will work for Puerto Ricans or Colombians). In this case, there is no such thing as an over-developed welcome-mat.
Basically, the way to increase opportunity is to reach out to the communities in question. We cannot simply expect them to "find" the wonders of birds and bird conservation on their own and by themselves. And it's not simply an invitation to a bird-watching field trip that will suffice. Individuals from diverse groups may not feel comfortable or welcomed in certain parks, forests, and other outdoor areas because of lack of knowledge and or awareness of what to do, and where to go. The onus is ours, as bird educators, to introduce these new, broad audiences to the birds by providing sufficient and welcoming opportunities and orientation.
Basically, these opportunities are "made" and not "found." They are created, not discovered.
Some bird education vehicles already exist, especially for youth and for families. They range from IMBD, to Celebrate Urban Birds, to the CBC4kids, to Flying WILD, to The Big Sit, to scouting, to church activities. The vehicles simply need to be enhanced and improved to suit the circumstances and utilize the opportunity to engage broader audiences.
In our next BEN Bulletin, we will have part III of our seven-part series, considering the importance of "Repeated Trips."
Fledging Birders Challenge
The Fledging Birders Institute announced the launch of its Fledging Birders Challenge, a FREE activity aimed at getting children outdoors and observing wildlife in their own communities. This monthly "contest" is open to school groups, scouting troops, neighborhood clubs, and all community groups across North America.
The newly minted Fledging Birders Challenge marks a significant expansion of the organization's original "Schoolyard Birding Challenge", which encouraged teachers to boost their students' performance by bringing them on daily bird walks around their school grounds. The expanded format now allows ALL local youth groups to participate by searching for and identifying birds in the neighborhoods, fields, parks, and other habitats within their own community. At the end of each month, the groups submit their sightings and birding stories to qualify for the Grand Prize Package which includes an autographed copy of The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds.
The Fledging Birders Challenge also encourages experienced birders to actively share their interest in birds with the children in their lives by conducting bird walks within their own community. Adult birders may recruit their own children, relatives, their friends, local scout troops, and other youth organizations to participate in these local bird searches. For each month, the most prolific birding mentors will be entered in the Grand Prize drawing to win an autographed copy of The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds and other bird books.
This launch of this program coincides with the annual Spring migration. Through these activities, these future bird-watchers will be eyewitnesses to an age-old migratory rhythm. Late-March through May marks an ideal period to introduce kids to birds as each week may hold a different mix of bird species in their area."
The main objective of these programs is to get more young people outside and exploring nature through bird watching. Bird watching holds profound benefits for children in all domains of development. Some of these many benefits include
- exercising observation skills,
- increased ability to focus on tasks,
- improving communication skills,
- learning impulse control,
- bolstering self-confidence,
- provides stress relief, and
- positive peer socialization activities.
These programs will help promote bird conservation as well. As the young participants become more familiar with their local birds, they and their families will be more inclined to care about the well being of their feathered neighbors. From there, their families can make small changes that help our birds like using native plants in their landscaping or drinking shade-grown coffee!
Visit www.fledgingbirders.org/challenge.html to learn more about these programs and how you can make a difference in the lives of our youth and the birds!
IMBD 2011 Theme - Go Wild, Go Birding!
Each year, a team of International Migratory Bird Day coordinators selects a theme that meets diverse criteria to reach varied audiences to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). This year's theme has a focus on reaching out to involve new youth and adults in learning about birds, birdwatching, and bird conservation.
There are lots of ways to get involved through IMBD in bird conservation, bird education, habitat projects, and birdwatching. IMBD provides the framework for bird festivals and events as well as the opportunity to motivate people of all ages to get outdoors to learn about birds.
This year's featured IMBD artist is John Muir Laws. John is trained as a wildlife biologist and is an associate of the California Academy of Sciences. He has illustrated books about the natural history of California, producing 2,710 original watercolor paintings. Equally important, he has a commitment to conservation that led him to create Following Muir's Footsteps, a school-based education program that helps students learn to observe nature by integrating science and art.
The official date for IMBD in the U.S. and Canada is the second Saturday in May each year, but today, IMBD programs, events, and festivals are held year-round. These are held at schools, parks, libraries, museums, zoos, refuges, nature centers and other locations accessible to the public.
For more information about International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) and events visit www.birdday.org.
Refuge Ideas, Refuge Future, Bird Education Connections
Photo by National Geographic
There is a major conference scheduled for July in Madison, Wisconsin, on the future of National Wildlife Refuges. There is also a related website that allows individuals and organizations across the country to contribute their own innovative ideas to help shape the future of the Refuge System.
Some great bird-education-associated and environmental-ed comments can be found on the site (from IMBD, to the CBC4kids, to birding field trips for families). These suggestions are often found on the site's "community of bold ideas" and "blog" sections, where individuals are asked to share ideas and to read and cast votes on ideas suggested by others.
It's all found here, where bird educators can join the dialogue: