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 Bird Conservation Through Education TM

November 17, 2011

In This Issue
Flying WILD Receives Award
Focus on Diversity- Recap
Setting Examples
mini-grants for Celebrate Urban Birds Program
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsor:
FW logo white with blue background

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
Flying WILD  Receives The Wildlife Society's Conservation Education Award    

FW logoFlying WILD, a program of the Council for Environmental Education (CEE), has just received The Wildlife Society's Conservation Education Award! Under the category of "Writings- Books," this award recognizes books which effectively convey sound conservation concepts to the public.  


Flying WILD is a nationally distributed bird education program delivered primarily by a City Partner network made up of nature centers, zoos, aquariums, museums, Audubon centers, etc., whereby City Partners are responsible for building training networks in their own cities and communities. Since the launch of Flying WILD in 2004, the City Partner network has grown to include more than 40 organizations who provide professional development opportunities to educators who have collectively reached more than 400,000 students. 


Focus on Diversity conferencFor more information about Flying WILD and a free sample activity visit or become a Facebook Fan by clicking here.   







Focus on Diversity - Conference Recap     

Focus on Diversity conferencOn October 22nd, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge hosted over 100 dedicated birders and conservationists for the nation's first Focus on Diversity: Changing the Face of American Birding Conference. While the issue has been discussed behind closed doors for decades, this historic gathering was the first public dialogue focused exclusively on "diversity in birding" and represents a significant step toward building a broader bird-literate society in America.


The cast of presenters was nothing short of an All-Star line-up of birders featuring Paul Baicich, Richard Crossley, Dudley Edmondson, Douglas Gray, Kenn Kaufman, J. Drew Lanham, Keith Russell, and many others. Of particular note, there were several inspiring and insightful speakers that were decidedly NOT birders, including National Hispanic Environmental Council's Roger Rivera and retired USFWS Assistant Director Mamie Parker. These powerhouse presenters serve as a testament to the importance of broadening the net of bird education and conservation.


Yet, the real power of the conference resides in the hearts, minds, and hands of the participants, also a respectable assemblage of birders, who were either recruited or healthily reinvigorated in the mission to share birds, birding, and bird conservation with new audiences. The American birding community's concern for, and overdue readiness to address, this critically important issue was apparent in the standing room only crowd. Hailing from 18 states and representing over 60 organizations, conference attendees left Heinz NWR armed with a deeper understanding of the issue, new strategies to reach broader audiences, and Action Plans to make an impact in their own areas.


Weren't able to make it to the Focus on Diversity Conference?! Well, we have got your back . . .


You can check out all the proceedings from the conference auditorium at:

We've also compiled some quotable moments:


Setting Examples: Mentors and Role-Models
by Paul J. Baicich  
Tom Russert and kids

Bird educators, by definition, are setting examples for the people they instruct, whether those instructions have to do with birding skills, bird stewardship and conservation, or just getting excited about nature through birds.


The place of individual mentors and role-models in this process came up a number of times at the Heinz diversity meeting (see the article above for details and to access the new video archive). These two categories are particularly important, especially when considering communities of diversity.


Unfortunately, we probably interchange them fairly regularly so we may need to clarify their differences and similarities for bird education.


Basically, mentors are leaders who keep the interest in birds - or nature through birds - alive with a helping hand. A mentor is someone who assumes the position of an engaged instructor, tutor, or coach. Whether dealing with adults or youngsters, mentors provide counsel, behavioral reinforcement, and even career guidance.


A role-model, however, is one step removed from those kind of functions. There is some distance involved. While the mentor is the friendly guide, the role-model is the admirable individual leader whose activity and behavior can be held up as an example, often imitated by others.


While mentoring is optional, an activity specifically chosen by the mentor, the role-model is actually identified or chosen by others. Therefore, a role-model's leadership activities are watched for positive reinforcement.


There is also a specific time commitment involved in mentoring, a personal involvement in the birding/outdoor lives of a select group of students or colleagues. The time commitment among role-models is mainly living a life - albeit a life of activity and excellence - with others free to observe and follow.


Both have lives or have skills that others may wish to emulate, but the mentor has to share the details of skill-building, and not just raise the bar and set a fine example


There may be a bit of overlap between mentors and role-models, too: Mary may be a mentor for interns at the nature center where she works when she takes a personal interest in them and instructs them in bird-study. But she may also be a role-model, an example, for other working naturalist-communicators in her region or state. Jack, who works at the very same nature center may not be a mentor for anyone, but like Mary, could be an excellent role-model across the region.


Both kinds of functions, mentor and role-model, are absolutely essential, especially in the context of bird education and especially in the area of communities of diversity. Let's take two well-known sets of examples in our literature: from the characters in John Robinson's and Dudley Edmondson's books.


In Robinson's Birding for Everyone, characters like Carlotta Hargrove and Thomas Cleaver, Jr. are mentors; they are shown as engaged in hands-on help in their field. In Edmondson's book Black and Brown Faces in America's Wild Places, most (but not all) of the characters are role-models, people setting an example, looked up to and admired. These might be, for example, Audrey Peterman or Phadrea Ponds.


If both experiences are essential, but should be kept separate, how about heroes (or idols)?  This additional category rose at the diversity meeting in Heinz NWR, a category we may take up in another issue of the BEN Bulletin.


So, the roles of these individual leaders - of supporting mentors and excellent role-models should combine to help advance bird and environmental education... but usually in distinct and different ways.



Mini-grants available for Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Celebrate Urban Birds Program

celebrate urban birds
Students made birdhouses as part of their "Bird Bash" at Proyecto Juan Diego, Brownsville, TX
Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Celebrate Urban Birds" project is accepting applications for mini-grants to fund neighborhood events that promote an appreciation for birds and nature. Grants average $250-$500.
Celebrate Urban Birds mini-grants could be used to support a bird-activity day at a local museum, afterschool program, library, or community center, or fund art and gardening activities at clubs, businesses, schools, senior centers, or neighborhoods. Events or projects could feature activities involving birds, community service, art, greening, and science. Participants are encouraged to collect simple information about common birds and report to the Cornell Lab.
To learn more, download a flyer, and apply for a mini-grant, visit Organizations working with underserved communities are strongly encouraged to apply. No experience with birds is required.
Deadline to apply is December 15, 2011

Celebrate Urban Birds is a free, year-round citizen science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants watch birds in their neighborhoods and report what they see. This information helps scientists better understand how birds survive in cities and make use of green spaces, including parks and gardens.


BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
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Newsletter maintained by: The Council for Environmental Education, Flying WILD and the BEN Committee.