BEN Bulletin Email #42
 Bird Conservation Through Education TM

June 30, 2011

In This Issue
Essentials for Reaching Diverse Audiences Part V: Colleagues
A Focus on Diversity in City of Brotherly Love
IMBD Events Approaches 500
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsor:
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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."

Quick Links
Essentials for Reaching Diverse Audiences through Birds Part V: Colleagues

by Paul J. Baicich and Douglas W. Gray

Mentoring Ben Pic

Photo:  Douglas W. Gray


We know that the way to begin to reach a diverse constituency must entail five points, the first three which we've already covered in previous issues of the BEN Bulletin:

Repeated trips

Ongoing support


To maintain interest, bird curiosity needs to be buoyed by friends who can share the experience. We also are talking about peers who may be like-minded, by age, class, ethnic background, those who provide a comfort level and sense of camaraderie.


A comfort-level among friends can be essential to maintaining ongoing birding interest and activity. If African Americans can share recent bird sightings with close friends who are African American, if Latinos can spend time in the field with Latinos, if Filipino Americans can discover birds with other Filipino Americans, then the elements of culture or language need not be "translated" at the same time and in conjunction with the new concepts entailed in bird discovery. This does not mean we are for selecting-out communities of diversity; it means we are for their increased inclusion through the vehicles of their own consoling environment. 

In this regard, the age element is also of particular importance: young people need to link with other young people, adults with adults.

Our grandparents might have called one of these characters a chum. Today he or she may be a bro, sistah, homie, compadre, carnal, or simply a buddy. It's all about the same.


Such a colleague is someone to share the potential interest - in this case, birds - when the mentor (described in our previous article in the BEN Bulletin) is not around or not available. The colleague provides an essential personal support system to help sustain the bird interest.

For one example, we're aware of a small group of African American men whose interest in birds and birding has indeed led them to become close colleagues.  The "SkyDawgs" (as the group sometimes refers to itself) with their shared experiences will likely lead them into becoming lifelong friends. This kind of bonding through a mutual interest in birds and birding has the potential to facilitate a diversity of peoples and cultures in the birding world, as shown in the fact that the SkyDawgs have grown into a group that also includes whites, Latinos, and at least one of Asian heritage. Perhaps it's a small model of things to come.

Such activity, when among adults, can spread to voluntary activity among other adults, say, new retirees looking to find increased meaning in outdoor experiences. Such colleagues can even help lead to model career development among youth (toward, perhaps, the biological sciences or toward nature-oriented aspects of the social sciences).


It's all about friends helping friends.
In our next BEN Bulletin, part VI of the seven-part series will be presented, exploring the importance of "Ongoing Support." 


A Focus on Diversity in City of Brotherly Love


focus on diversity logoAmerican birders have over 800 species to satisfy our bird watching desires. From the Calliope Hummingbird to the American White Pelican, from the Painted Bunting to the Clay-colored Sparrow, the incredible diversity of North American birds is perhaps the most compelling factor that draws so many of us to birdwatching.

Yet, does the American birding community itself reflect such diversity within its ranks? Look around when you're in the field or at a birding festival and the answer is clear.

While few people give much thought to this situation, it actually poses a significant threat to the sustainability of the birding community, the birds' habitats, and, ultimately, the birds themselves.


These concerns are the driving force behind the Focus on Diversity: Changing the Face of American Birding Conference, which will be held at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge on October 22, 2011. This special event will examine these issues and actively engage bird educators in recruiting new audiences for their programs, organizations, and birding in general. 


Event organizers are seeking additional sponsors  and also still accepting presentation proposals. Visit for more details. Registration materials will be available online in mid-July. 





IMBD Events Approaches 500


International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), coordinated by Environment for the Americas, continues to grow. In 2010, 450 events were recorded, from lectures to field trips, to little festivals. A large portion of these celebrations occurred in May. This year, over 480 events have already been registered.  With more fall events expected, 500 should easily be reached soon across Canada, United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. This would be a new record!


Some photo highlights for 2011 IMBD events are already posted here:


BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
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