Southside Community Center

The Southside Community Center Afterschool Program strives to expose children in urban Ithaca to activities and concepts they may not otherwise have access to. Their curriculum includes gardening, quilting, music instruction and language class, but this year they’d like to incorporate Celebrate Urban Birds into their program to show the children (who are aged 5 to 12) that plenty of birds stay in Ithaca during the winter and survive in an urban area!

Over the course of the program, children will learn about each bird in the CUBs focal species list, and use paper, feathers and glue to create a paper version of one of the birds they like. They’ll also present their crafted bird to the class and share an interesting fact about the species, which should help them remember the species better! These paper birds will become part of hanging mobiles kept at the Community Center for visitors to appreciate.

There is a public park directly outside the Southside Community Center where the children play outdoors, but this space is often littered by others after hours. According to program leaders Kenneth McLaurin and Crystal Simons, “It is disappointing to have the children in the garden only to find plastic bags and empty bottles. Last year, as a way to celebrate community engagement, the children cleaned up the neighborhood. They had a good time, gained a sense of purpose and pride, and adults who saw them were pleasantly surprised and inspired.”

The clean-up was such a success that they are doing it again this year as part of their Urban Bird Celebration. Students will also plant Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds (included in CUBs kits) and create a space in the garden that is appealing to birds, working with a volunteer Food Justice Educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension to learn about habitat creation and consider the ecology of the park with other animals and plants. After that hard work, the children will each pick a place to sit and conduct a bird observation for 10 minutes. The groups will eventually come together to discuss what they saw and tally the results.

Hopefully this will help the students appreciate the life around them in a space where they normally play, and see how they can positively affect urban wildlife through caring for their environment!