Youth Summit at Cornell Lab 2013

Photo by Claire Smith

With support from Smith Lever and collaboration with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk, Nosotros Radio Inc., and the Syracuse YMCA, we held another wonderful Youth Workshop here at the Lab of Ornithology on August 26th and 27th, 2013. After working on projects for a whole year, Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBs) partners and youth had the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts, excitedly explore the Lab and Cornell campus, and participate in a series of presentations by engaging staff members. These participants, all high school students apart from their chaperones, came from Syracuse and Long Island.

photo © Claire Smith
We’ve highlighted the two groups before. The students from Syracuse are part of the organization called LACE (Latino Students, Advancement, Commitment, and Excellence), and the Long Island participants call themselves The Thicklets. They traveled with their chaperones to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to share the projects focused on habitat improvement, birds, and community service that they developed in their own neighborhoods. All lectures and tours were translated on the spot into Spanish because a few of the Latino students came to the U.S. only recently and are still working on attaining English fluency.

Throughout the workshop, the youth and their chaperones were able to engage in well over a dozen activities that included:

  • Presenting their respective projects to each other
  • Interacting with scientists who work on or with cutting edge research and technology
  • Learning about the power of community-based citizen science
  • Getting an in-depth look at the Lab’s Macaulay Library and meeting its archivists, recordists, and researchers
  • Touring the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates housed within the Lab
  • Learning about habitat improvement
  • Participating in a morning of bird banding
  • Learning about communications, social media, and public relations in the sciences
  • Interacting with Cornell undergraduate students
  • Exploring the outdoor trails of Sapsucker Woods around the Lab
  • Touring the Lab and its diverse departments
  • Appreciating the artwork of past visiting artists at the Lab
  • Touring the Cornell campus
  • Dining on the renowned Cornell meal plan

photo © Claire Smith

Last year, youth from LACE and The Thicklets had their first meeting at The Lab. It was a fantastic chance for them to share their often vastly different backgrounds in citizen science and habitat improvement in Syracuse and Long Island, while also coming together over common themes in their experience. Some of this year’s participants had met before, but several were new and had fresh insights about their current projects and plans. For example, this year The Thicklets have continued working on habitat improvement in their community, but with some surprise complications, like a fire that affected their targeted wildlife restoration area. However, these setbacks haven’t stopped them, and they have great plans for the upcoming work season’s activities at their site, such as organizing a race to attract more members of their community to the area and enjoy the outdoors, continuing their regular garbage removal from the site, updating their blog, improving the greening quality for birds in their targeted area, and much more.

photo © Claire Smith
LACE, on the other hand, has focused this year on informing its local Syracuse community about birds, as well as vegetation that helps improve habitat for those birds, rather than creating such habitat directly. As part of their education outreach, they developed a beautiful brochure! They selected four focal bird species from CUBs, and also four plants that can help common birds in cities. They did extensive research, selected what they wanted to say to their community, found good images, and learned to use unfamiliar programs in the Microsoft Office Suite to create an educational and bilingual Brochure LACE 2013:

They personally distributed the brochure (with the help of some of their friends) amongst families, youth, seniors, and other participants at a local Latino festival in Syracuse. LACE did an incredible job for their community, and was proud of it.

We have high expectations that next year the two youth groups will continue participating with us in this collaborative program, and meet at the Lab again next summer to share experiences and come up with new ways to improve communities and bird habitat in their neighborhoods. In addition we’d like to include more groups from the state of New York. We are certain that LACE and The Thicklets inspire many more young people to follow in their footsteps!

photo © Marta del Campo