• Casa Del Tunel

    Peaceful place. Nurturing environment. Safe haven.

    Tijuana, Mexico

    In August, Casa del Tunel Cultural Center had a nurturing program in Tijuana, Mexico. Simultaneously, there was a community program with WordBeat Center, Casa del Tunel’s sister organization located in San Diego, CA. This is the second year there is a bi-national program within the two organizations with a very similar curriculum.

    photo © Courtesy of Berenice Rodriguez
    In the program run by Casa del Tunel, there was a a strong focus on introducing local and cultural traditions through fun and enriching activities. Most of these participants were children and adults are from El Cañon de Los Laureles in Tijuana, a neighborhood that faces ecological and economic challenges. They are exposed to violent environments with little connection to nature. This program served to open their eyes and educate the kids on the importance and beauty of the natural environment around them. The children also explored dance and yoga while also learning healthy eating habits. During the lunch breaks, the kids were able to eat food that had been grown directly from their very own class garden. Overall, this fun and interactive program was an enriching experience for both the children and adult members of the surrounding community who participated!

    photo © Courtesy of Casa del Tunel
    Casa del Tunel also has a service project that has had an enormous impact on both the human and animal community. A run-down alleyway in Tijuana that had previously had a bad reputation has been transformed into Tijuana’s International Peace Garden, a beautiful green space that brings joy to the surrounding community. Casa del Tunel has planted its first milkweed plant and many other plants are going into seed, both of which attracts birds, butterflies, and other important pollinators! Recently, the city government donated a number of trees as a part of ‘Tijuana Limpia’ a campaign with over 7,500 participants in the sanitation and afforestation of roadways, parks and plazas.

    photo © Courtesy of Berenice Rodriguez
    Although the project has not yet been completed, a type of inauguration ceremony has already taken place. A “Peace Pole” has been planted into the ground, symbolizing all the positive energy that has been reintegrated into the neighborhood. Along with the pole planting ceremony, a sweat lodge ceremony also occurred. For those unfamiliar with this, it is an ethnic practice common to many native cultures within the Americas whose main purpose is to cleanse the area and people spiritually and physically. The Peace Pole was decorated with many different languages, completely transforming the negative energies typically associated with
    border-cities into positive, accepting energies that greatly resonated with
    the community.

    photo © Courtesy of Berenice Rodriguez
    With so little places for birds in the city local and urban birds have come to visit Tijuana’s International Peace Garden. The locals, many of which have never been so close and connected to nature, have been immensely moved by the transformation. Also, the excitement in the community has been unreal. Local birds are not the only inhabitants to the garden! Many migratory bird and butterfly species have become frequent fliers in the area. Some Funky Nests have even been spotted within the garden!!

     

    If you want to learn more about the celebrations that took place on September 21, 2014– International Day of Peace — in Tijuana please click here .

    Photo gallery

  • WorldBeat Cultural Center

    Smiling faces. Excited whispers. Curious glances.

    Balboa Park, San Diego

    A fantastic program was hosted by WordBeat Center (WBC) in Balboa Park, downtown, San Diego, CA. What better way to learn about nature than by being outside? Kids of all ages spent time outdoors interacting with group leaders in fun and engaging hands-on activities. These activities were split into a couple different topics such as the Outdoor Children’s Classroom and a series of Wildlife and Bird-watching Exercises.

    photo © Courtesy of WBC

    The Outdoor Children’s Classroom taught the kids about saving seeds and solar ovens. They learned the importance of seeds, the pollination process, and even the development of fruits! Another exciting thing the kids were able to see was solar cookery. They were taught how to make solar ovens out of cardboard and aluminum foil. Burgers and veggies from their very own garden were cooked in these ovens too!

    photo © Courtesy of WBC
    The Wildlife and Bird-watching Exercises were super interactive and fun ways to demonstrate how close nature is to their very own, inner city communities. During periods of ten minutes, bird species were identified, counted, and tallied up. The children participating in the second week of program had the good luck of spotting a particularly interesting set of birds. They heard and quickly found two wild Red-crowned Parrots in a tree nearby. The kids happily squealed and giggled as they observed them. Shortly afterwards, however, they saw another type of bird quickly approaching. It was a HUGE Red-tailed Hawk and it was flying straight at the wild parrots! The whole group began screaming and shouting at the hawk, trying to divert its path. The parrots flew away frantically and the hawk flew over the group. Everyone was able to breathe a big sigh of relief.
    photo © Courtesy of WBC

    Although a main focus of the program was to educate children of all ages on the importance and accessibility of nature in their communities, there was a cultural learning activity as well. This activity fostered leadership and expression. Kids had the opportunity to become group leaders in an African drumming exercise while playing a popular drum and dance rhythm, “Kuku”. The drumming exercises helped improve their math skills and taught them attention and listening skills. During the dance they learned to mimic the movements of birds and an additional exercise to maintain their bodies healthy. These activities helped integrate math, science and art.

    The program organized by WorldBeat Center taught kids of all ages how easy nature is to interact with and enjoy. Makeda Dread Cheatom, one of the group leaders, was overheard explaining the importance of this topic. “That’s why nature is important! Ya gotta get off and away from the television!” The kids went home happy and informed at the end of the day.

    100 year anniversary

    WorldBeat Center’s activities don’t stop here, however! The organization is celebrating the 100th year anniversary of Balboa Park with tons of activities planned for the community. A main event being held soon is Nature Fest, which will feature many fun bird watching activities, in conjunction with the 100th year anniversary of Cornell’s Lab Ornithology. It will be held on the Spring Equinox of 2015 in the International Peace Garden in Tijuana in conjunction with WBC’s sister organization, Casa del Tunel.

    Related Links for Cultural Events

    If you want to learn more about WorldBeat Cultural Center’s Outdoor Children’s Classroom please click here.

    The children were greatly impacted by the activities and lessons presented at program. Here is a girl’s statement about what she learned while at WBC’s program.

    If you want to learn more about the African drumming activity the children took part in, please click here.

    Photo gallery

    Video

    Check out all the wonderful outdoor activities at WBC in this awesome thank you video they made for Celebrate Urban Birds!

    Thank you WorldBeat Cultural Center. You are fantastic!

  • Green Jay Mayan Birding Club

    The story of how Green Jay Mayan Birding got started is a rather beautiful one. The founders of the club, a husband and wife team, spotted a number of vibrantly colored birds flying by their home in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. They were so mesmerized by the beauty of these birds that they could not help but wonder what they were called. They first researched the birds on the internet, as well as paid a visit to a local book store where they bought their first bird guide in hopes of finding the answer they sought.

    photo © Courtesy of Green Jay Mayan Birding
    Their answer? Green Jays. Their initial curiosity soon turned into a passion as they continued to observe, discover, and photograph birds in the Yucatan Peninsula. Their passion for birds was contagious, and thanks to their interest and dedication, the Green Jay Mayan Birding Club was founded for the whole community with the goal of promoting a culture of bird watchers of all ages and from all cultural and economic backgrounds.

    The Green Jay Mayan Birding Club has had a great impact on the community of the peninsula by promoting on the one hand, the appreciation and the conservation of birds, and on the other hand, by promoting the ecotourism in the peninsula surrounding bird watching. For this reason, the club is impacting the community both socially and economically. Members of the club include housewives, doctors, photographers, students, members of the Mayan community, the elderly, and the list goes on. One of the greatest achievements of the club is that it has managed to bring the diverse people of the Yucatan together in one common goal- to watch and help wild birds. The activities of the club have also generated economic resources that help many. When going on outings, the club supports local businesses by finding places to stay with the locals or hotels of that area, buying local food, and promoting the products, services, and culture of the areas they visit.

    photo © Courtesy of Green Jay Mayan Birding
    Another way of promoting bird watching is by means of photo exhibitions, of which the last was called “Volando por la Península” (Flying along the Peninsula). The exhibit took place in a café that aims to promote local artists. The owner of the café is a member of the club and is just one example of the variety of people that get involved in bird watching with the club. Through the exhibition, Green Jay Mayan Birding is able to reach locals who visit the café and capture their interest and curiosity in the birds of the peninsula.

    The influence that Green Jay Mayan Birding has had on the birding community of the Yucatan has been incredible for environmental education and conservation. When the club first got started in 2012, only two birding organizations existed in the region. This number has grown so much since then, that there are currently 17 birding clubs in the Yucatan Peninsula with the same goals as Green Jay Mayan Birding. Since Green Jay Mayan Birding first got started, the number of Mexicans reporting birds in the Yucatan Peninsula has increased by 10%.

    photo © Courtesy of Green Jay Mayan Birding
    The rise in the number of people watching birds in the area is significant because it results in the gathering of information on the local bird species, while also creating environmental awareness and more clubs like Green Jay Mayan Birding in other communities. By increasing awareness of the great diversity in bird species that exists in their own backyards and towns, Green Jay Mayan Birding Club has the opportunity to teach the community about the importance of maintaining the habitats of these birds and the significance that this has for the local and global ecology. In times when the effects of global warming and environmental degradation are becoming so evident, it is imperative to want to discover and do more for the local environment and its species, promote, and help the creation and maintenance of habitats that help birds and other living creatures. The Green Jay Mayan Birding Club is a great example of how we can all help our communities and the Earth.

    If you wish to know more about the current activities of Green Jay Mayan Birding Club, you can visit their Facebook page.


    Photos courtesy of Green Jay Mayan Birding.

  • Jerry Zucker Middle School

    photo © Mark Romano
    Band students at the Jerry Zucker Middle School in North Charleston, SC had quite the set-list scheduled for this semester. Band teacher Mark Romano planned a concert for the community where the student musicians played songs that involved tunes with sounds from birds and nature, using their instruments to create the sounds actually heard in the wild using themed sheet music.

    photo © Mark Romano
    “I want my students to be able to understand how to make music and the importance of using their instruments to create nature sounds,” Mr. Romano told us. Students visited the school garden and orchard at least once a month, keeping a log of what they saw, heard and felt. They did the same for the music they practiced for the concert to see how the two converge. You can see some of the garden and orchard, as well as the outdoor classroom, in these photos of students listening for birds!

    photo © Mark Romano
    Mr. Romano also showied his students some classical examples of animal sounds in music as part of his curriculum, like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony #6 and Hayden’s Bird Quartet. As the band performs the piece, the band teacher prompted the audience, comprised of parents, staff, community members, and other students at the middle school, to picture what nature scene the music brings to their mind. After the concert, he took interested audience-members to the school garden and gave them a chance to celebrate and listen to what they hear as they thought about the music that was performed.

  • Horticultural Society of New York and PS 153

    The Horticultural Society of New York in conjunction with PS 153, a school in the West Harlem section of Manhattan, has come up with a great way to engage their young students in greening and bird watching activities in their own neighborhoods. Ten classes of 1st, 2nd, and

    photo © Courtesy of Michelle Byron
    3rd graders participated in an activity in which they got to pot a plant and were able to take it home with them. They also enjoyed a presentation by Wild Bird Fund and got to see a live bird.

    The Horticultural Society of New York also taught a four week program with second grade students at PS 153. The students were able to study local habitats, ecosystems, animal adaptations, like bird beaks, camouflage, and migration. The students also got the opportunity to make their own field guides of local birds. Afterwards the students went on a walk to the local Hamilton Grange National Memorial to celebrate urban birds. They recorded the birds they saw during their walk.

    This program was a very successful and exciting way to introduce students to local wildlife and parks. They are very enthusiastic and observant now!

  • Saint Mary’s School

    On May 6th, 2014, Mrs. Tracy Rosson’s kindergarten class at Saint Mary’s School in Lake Village, Arkansas had an ornithology day bird scout! Their scouting area was in the flat delta lands in southeastern Arkansas, near Lake Chicot, a true natural wonder. Formerly the main channel of the Mississippi River, this 20-mile-long lake is the biggest oxbow lake in North America and the state’s largest natural body of water.

    In partnership with the Cooperative Extension Service of University of Arkansas, and using CUBs materials, students learned about birds and were able to submit their data back to us! Each participant was given Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds that they can plant at home to attract local birds this summer.

    The kids all enjoyed their outing and Mrs. Tracy hopes this will be an annual event for her kindergarten students!

  • Nuestro Futuro

    In partnership with the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County (La LIGA), Open Hand Theater (Syracuse, NY), and with funds from the Smith Lever Foundation, Celebrate Urban Birds and the bilingual after school Nuestro Futuro (Our Future) collaborated on a wonderful youth development project focused on connections among humans, birds, and their habitat in urban environments.

    Children learned about birds, habitat, and urban green spaces to create a diorama of their neighborhood. They met once a week for two months to create the artwork. Youth created bird origami and they took their crafting to the next level in an educational representation of the relationships between landscapes and avian wildlife in urban spaces. The 3D mock-up of their neighborhood with markers for where they spotted birds allowed them to see how they don’t have to go to the park or the zoo to see animals as long as there’s enough green space!

    In the slideshow by Marta del Campo below, the children are looking for birds in local parks and making bird origami with the help of bird guidebooks.

    Early on, they all picked the local bird that they wanted to be: the most popular by far was the Blue Jay, but others include the Rock Pigeon, American Crow, Peregrine Falcon, and even a couple Flamingos (thanks to the Syracuse Zoo)!

    Every Tuesday in May and June 2014, the children had workshops led by Celebrate Urban Birds and staff from the two partner organizations. During these workshops, youth worked to complete their art project, the fantastic 3-D representation of their neighborhood, and their selected birds. They also learned about their birds and made posters with the information they wanted to share with their community at (slideshow photos by Marta del Campo):

    Youth visited Webster Park to watch birds using green spaces in the city, Onondaga Lake shore to watch shorebirds, and other local green areas in Syracuse. During these visits, youth learned to use binoculars, where to look for birds, and picked up materials such as sticks, leaves, pebbles, grass, and sand to enrich their art project with natural items. They also worked on their art project outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and get inspired by the passing by birds (slideshow photos by Marta del Campo):

    On June 25th the kids presented their artwork and talked about what they had learned about their birds in English and Spanish. It was fantastic! They were teaching their own families and neighborhood friends about birds, habitat and more (photos by Marta del Campo):

    On June 27th, youth, educators and parents traveled to Cornell to learn about the university. During the visit, youth presented their projects and their selected birds, walked on campus, visited libraries, the Johnson Museum of Art, and much more. They had a fantastic time in their visit, and hope to return sometime in the future. Great job! Check out some of the photos taken by Marta del Campo during their visit to Cornell:

    Thank you Nuestro Futuro!

  • Another Successful Seed Swap

    Itching to garden during this past record winter, Wild Connections, previously featured here with their partner Toledo GROWs, welcomed spring with hundreds of people at Woodward High School this year for the tenth Annual Seed Swap. Along with volunteers, Wild Connections gave out seed bombs and Celebrate Urban Birds materials. Over two hundred and fifty seed bombs filled with native aster, coneflower and sunflower seeds will hopefully bloom beautifully this summer in backyards, vacant lots and against bare fences in the metro Toledo area!

    The seed bombs were made by the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities gardeners at Manos Community Garden with clay, potting soil, compost and seeds. This year, the group learned that a string through the ball makes it easier to strike against a hard surface to scatter in the planting area. The plants that sprout will help feed their neighbors — the urban birds!

    We’re so happy to have a former mini-grant winning group keep working so diligently with their community and stay connected with us! The annual Seed Swap is a wonderful example of a collaborative project between many groups working toward the same goals of outreach, education, and celebration of the environment. Check out more photos of the event below.

  • Birds, Careers, and Conservation Workshop 2014

    “Before this workshop I thought all birds were black.”
    “We’ll never look at birds the same way.”

    photo © Marta del Campo
    Thanks to a grant from the Kaytee Avian Foundation and generous donations from Barbara Bessey and Vicky DeLoach, we held a Birds, Careers and Conservation Youth Workshop at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on April 24th and 25th. Students and staff from every Lab department participated in hosting sixteen urban youth and their eight educators/chaperones from cities across the country! Youth, who were selected through competitive applications/interviews, explored birds, careers in conservation science and paths to higher education. As always, we received many outstanding applications by students, and it was extremely tough for us to whittle down the list according to our available space and funding.

    photo © Marta del Campo
    Students participated in a wide array of activities throughout the workshop including an in-depth tour of Macaulay Library with Martha Fischer, Greg Budney, Matt Medler, and Brad Walker. Youth learned about video editing and sound archiving, and got to record their own sounds and listen to audio in “surround sound.” Participants also loved hearing about the Elephant Listening Project from Peter Wrege and playing a fun bird game with Emma Greig.

    photo © Marta del Campo
    On the Cornell Campus students received an exciting tour of the Boyce Thompson Institute from one of the Institute’s researchers, Michelle Cilia. In addition, no visit to Cornell is complete without ice-cream from the newly refurbished Cornell Dairy Bar, so after lunch at Appel Commons and great campus tours from students, workshop participants enjoyed the famous frozen delights at Stocking Hall. Later, they learned about web programming with Lisa Larson, got a taste of the adversity facing the world’s biodiversity from Gemara Gifford, and explored conservation in the neotropics and the value of the arts in conservation from Eduardo Iñigo-Elias.

    This workshop taught me self-confidence. Professors, scientists, college students are real people — and that could be me!

    Master quilter Elsie Dentes showed participants how to have hands-on fun with the creative arts through mixed-media collages, and from dusk till darkness the students, many of whom had never walked through woods before, experienced a night walk in silence through Sapsucker Woods (they heard huge choruses of peepers!).

    Some more photos by Diane Tessaglia-Hymes and Marta del Campo:

    photo © Marta del Campo
    For more direct interaction with wildlife, on Friday morning participants learned all about bird banding from David Bonter, Shailee Shah, and Taylor Heaton. Then they checked out the Museum of Vertebrates with Charles Dardia, and got back outside for a fantastic birding walk with Matt Young. Robyn Bailey supplemented the outing with a display of the great world of birds’ nests.

    photo © Marta del Campo

    To provide some insight into the college experience at a university like Cornell, three current undergraduates (Seth Inman, Evan Barrientos, and Paige Roosa) spoke about their past four years in Ithaca, and Anthony Dicembre from Cornell Admissions taught them about what’s involved in applying to Cornell (and other four-year universities). Finally, participants learned about Bioacoustics and listened to the ocean with Ashik Rahaman, whose stories were so enthralling that students stayed for over an hour after the end of the workshop instead of choosing free time! We ended the workshop with a picnic at Taughannock Falls Park and an impromptu hike to one of Ithaca’s great natural attractions.

    More photos by Marta del Campo:

  • Citizen Science Project: Snake Conservation and Education in Brazil

    Researchers from the Biological Museum of the Butantan Institute and the University of São Paolo’s Zoological Museum are sharing knowledge about snakes and venomous snake bites with inhabitants of the Guapiruvu neighborhood in the Vale do Ribeira region, one of the places in the Sete Barras municipality with a high rate of snake-bite accidents, including with children.

    The project leader on the ground is Naylien Barreda, a Cuban environmental educator. By entering into a dialogue with local community members she and her collaborating environmental educator Bruno Gonçalves hope to promote the conservation of several snake species in the area while also helping the residents of Guapiruvu reduce the instances of venomous snake bites.

    Over the next six months, Naylien, Bruno, and their collaborators will be working on educational workshops, collecting survey responses about local perceptions of snakes, covering topics such as venomous and non-venomous animals, recording snake-sightings, and creating a local snake guidebook for the region with locals.

    The project also aims to help contribute to the São Paolo research foundation Biota-FAPESP, sometimes known as the Virtual Institute of Biodiversity, by carrying out research developed for the project titled “The Origin and Evolution of Snakes and their Diversification in the Neotropics: A Multidisciplinary Approach.”

    If you would like to learn more about how this project has continued in local Brazilian communities, you can download a PDF document (in Spanish only). In this document you will find interesting results and ideas to inspire you to implement participatory science in all types of communities. Click here to download!

  • Adopt-a-School Project: Southeast Middle School

    Candy Frye, of Southeast Middle School, wrote us about SEMS: Feathered Amigos, a Pennington Adopt-a-School mini-grant project:

    During the months of April and May, Southeast Middle School Enrichment Students will have several opportunities to participate in events that will foster environmental awareness of our local bird populations. Southeast Middle School is in a unique location near historical Salisbury, (Rowan County) North Carolina. Our area is currently experiencing construction growth and an increase in human population. Therefore, the goal of SEMS: Feathered Amigos Project is to better understand and support the integration of bird populations within the shared community.

    On Friday, April 11th, we had an open Bird Watch for students, parents, and community members. Ornithology students from nearby Catawba College assisted us with birdwatching. The Rowan County Master Gardeners joined our watch and provided information about bird houses and creating a bird friendly garden environment.

    Southeast Middle School student population is about 770 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Classes will be invited to participate in a 10-minute bird watch during our project time and to analyze their class findings.

    We hope to improve our feathered amigos’ environment by adding bird feeders, nesting boxes, and bird friendly plants to our school garden. Volunteers from Rowan County Master Gardeners and ornithology students from Catawba College in Salisbury will assist with our SEMS: Feathered Amigos Project!

    Here at SEMS, we are very excited about the opportunities that our mini-grant will provide for our students, community, and especially our feathered amigos!

  • Adopt-a-School Project: Public School 770, The New American Academy

    Why do birds of a feather flock together in New York City?

    The New American Academy Public School 770 in Brooklyn, New York celebrates science with six interdisciplinary units of study throughout the year: Agriculture, Medicine, Transportation, Energy, Engineering, and Communication. This past fall, the third grade used their Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant to fund activities in their Agriculture curriculum. During this eight-week cycle of study in the Agriculture curriculum, the third-grade students learned about birds living in urban settings through hands-on learning activities such as art projects, field trips, owl pellet dissections, and bird-watching!

    The unit began with the students learning the basics about birds. For example, the students learned what makes a bird, a bird. They also learned the body parts and general anatomy of birds while discovering how many different types of birds exist on planet Earth today! For the rest of the six-week program, however, the third-graders learned specifically about the thirteen focal bird species.

    The first bird-watching activity of many was completed with the help of the internet. The children were shown real birds through cool, live-streaming cams. Although bird identification is really hard, with a little bit of practice, everyone began to slowly learn the names of all the birds on the video stream!

    One of the favorite activities the students did throughout the unit was the owl pellet dissection. For those who do not know what an owl pellet is, it’s a ball of fur and bones that is regurgitated by owls 10-15 hours after a meal. The dissection followed a lesson about the food chain. The third-graders were able to cut apart owl pellets, finding bones from the owls’ previous meals! After locating the bones, they would match their bones up with pictures of bones from known animals such as mice, rats, and moles to find out what their particular owl had been eating. These brave third-graders brave third graders put on their gloves and eagerly began the dissection for this terrific activity!

    In an attempt to connect with wildlife in their very own neighborhood, the third graders made bird feeders out of common household items such as paper towel rolls and vegetable shortening with bird seed and hung them up in the school yard! This source of food attracted many more birds, allowing a second bird-watching activity to take place. The students were equipped with clipboards and binoculars, constantly identifying and tallying the birds spotted. Everyone had a blast being able to take the classroom outdoors! After making the bird feeders, bird nutrition became a topic of study; the students learned about sunflowers and their importance to birds as a source of food.

    Not only did science play a huge part in the curriculum, but art did as well! While learning about sunflowers, the curriculum bridged between science and art. After learning all about the different plant parts and how the shape of the parts relate to their function, the students learned about Vincent van Gogh and his iconic painting Sunflowers. In another artistic activity, the students made papier-mâché birds!

    Midway through the unit, the students took a field trip to visit Prospect Park where they spoke to some park rangers about the thirteen focal bird species. During their nature walk, the park rangers pointed out nests and other bird habitats throughout the park, including a pond with ducks swimming in it. Along the way, feathers were collected and examined; it was a truly immersive experience! The students, teachers, and parents on the field trip took this opportunity to do another official CUBs bird-watching activity with binoculars and data sheets. Not only were they having fun, but they were doing very important data collection!

    After learning all about the thirteen focal species, the third-graders were given a research assignment. Each student had to pick from any of the birds they had learned about during the unit and write a report on the bird. Each report needed to have a decorated report cover page. These reports were read to the parents at the final curriculum showcase at the end of the unit!

    At the end of every unit, the school celebrates with an event called a Curriculum Celebration, to which all members of the school community are invited. During this 60-90 minute celebration, the students became the teachers for their parents and special guests. They read their reports, dissected owl pellets, and even did a fun school-yard bird-watching activity!  A fun video was shown, summarizing what the students had learned throughout the eight weeks!

    Check out this cool video made by PS 770!

    Photo gallery

  • Adopt-a-School Project: Public School 119 Amersfort

    Public School 119 Amersfort is located in a densely populated area of Brooklyn, New York, where there is little connection to the natural world. Schoolteacher Kate Judge feels that it is important to help children grow more aware of the existing wildlife surrounding them in their community, so she is planning a Birds of Brooklyn event with the school’s Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant.

    Prior to the event, students will learn about the CUBs focal species in the classroom. Then, on the day of the event, they’ll visit Avenue J Park to collect data, observe their surroundings and experience the park in a new way. Using new sketchbooks, they’ll draw pencil sketches of birds they observe, and compose poems reflecting their birdwatching experience.

    A designated audiographer will record/document the event for later podcasting on the school blog, which will also include photos, reporting, interviewing and the reading of nature-inspired poetry.
    Parents and teachers will be invited to participate in this event, since their presence will enable children to further discuss their experiences at home and across classrooms.

    As Kate wrote us, “Visual art is an aspect of reaching a level of deeper understanding in this project. By asking one to draw and sketch the bird at rest or in flight and defining its environment we gain a context by which to relate to the birds. Furthermore, by putting it into words through an exploratory creative writing opportunity participants will solidify their learned experiences, create opinions and develop an appreciation for the world around them.”

    While drawing and further observing, participants will notice what the birds are doing, what they eat, and where they rest. By bringing these observations and conversations back into the classroom, they’ll develop ideas on gardening for birds and bird habitat creation in their school garden. Since Avenue J Park is less than a block from the school, watching the birds there will show students the birds they can attract to their garden.

  • Adopt-a-School Project: Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School

    The Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School is in its second year of operation serving inner city youth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school used their Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant to organize raptor birding trips and an observation event on the school’s rooftop with the goal of exposing students to the natural world.

    photo © Courtesy of Robert Fest

    Philadelphia is home to plenty of raptor species that commonly nest on prominent buildings and landmarks, and going out to watch these birds helps the students see that even in heavily urbanized areas, beautiful feathered predators can survive and live comfortably.

    Project leader Robert Fest is the faculty sponsor of the school’s “Student Adventure Squad” and planned an event in which students

    photo © Courtesy of Robert Fest
    partnered up with bird identification lists and a pair of binoculars and collected scientific data that the students will be able to use to create their own science projects.

    The observation event, which was a small opening ceremony for the project, was open to students, faculty, staff, and family members on the school’s safe roof. The school’s roof provides a 360-degree of the surrounding area, where participants were able to see treetops, cityscapes, and the steeples of local churches, all great and varied bird habitats. Participants observed for ten minutes and recorded the birds they saw; they also helped out any adults in bird identification and proper data collection methods.

    photo © Courtesy of Robert Fest

    The high school’s art club designed flyers and posters advertising the Celebrate Urban Birds Event on the rooftop, as well as informative posters to display around the school stressing the importance of Philadelphia’s bird population and providing information on ways that the local community can help local bird species thrive in an urban environment.

  • Adopt-a-School Project: Union County High School

    At Union County High School in Maynardville, Tennessee, the Biology II class has much in store for the spring semester! Their teacher, Aileen Beeler, is using the Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant to instill awareness of the birds in the community into her students and help them understand how birds fit into the local food web, as well as how they can attract birds to their homes.

    The Biology II class is planting bird-friendly plants, setting up feeders, and putting up a bird bath in an area delimited by railroad ties. Students have sketched out the placement of all the plants, feeders, and the bird bath, and are now planting the area with the help of donations from local businesses. The process of keeping it maintained and weed-free will come from all the biology classes. Once the garden is ready, students will have a diary by the window with a bird identification book so that they can log the birds they see, and every week as a class they’ll inspect the area outdoors. By the end of the semester, they’ll take all their data and find the most common birds, the plants they were attracted to, and which types of food in the feeders were eaten the most and by which species.

    Ecology is a big part of their curriculum, and students will be witnessing first-hand how the local food web, involving local birds and the foods they eat, works outside their classroom window. They will also place a thermometer and rain gauge in the area to see how the environment changes throughout the semester and record how these changes affect the habits of the birds.

    On a particular event day, administrators and students will meet to observe and record what is in the “bird park.” During this time, students can explain the bird habitat to adults and show what they have learned through their observations.

    Many of the students are artistically gifted and can draw or sketch the birds they see, so Aileen thinks that as part of the semester long project of taking down data, the students will make a story book for the elementary school down the road that uses facts about the birds in their area, woven into a fictional story involving a local bird species of their choosing (there’s a picture of some of this work in the slideshow below). They’ll illustrate the book and deliver copies of it to the lower grades to help them learn about neighborhood birds.

    The Union County High School science department is very excited about the prospect of transforming this area into a bird habitat, and we can’t wait to see how the project develops further! You can read the Union County newspaper’s story on the garden project here (page 8).

  • Adopt-a-School Project: T.S. King Middle School

    The Thomas Starr King Middle School is a magnet school in Los Angeles, California that is deeply involved with environmental studies and the arts. This spring, they’re planning a project with the goal of sharpening observational skills, recording accurate information, becoming aware of and caring for creatures within the local environment, and producing functional art. They’ve titled their project City Birds, and have an interactive webpage you can visit here.

    The teachers are going to practice techniques for identifying specific birds with their students, involving multiple sessions of bird watching outside the classroom with scientific data-recording strategies. This will include bird sound identification. Students will keep journals and learn to draw scientific illustrations to appropriately describe what they observe. Recently, the T. S. King Middle School opened an art gallery on campus, and the student curators club will soon mount an exhibition of bird illustrations in conjunction with bird inspired art.

    At the moment, they’re thinking of scheduling an official birding event for May 28 of this year. Earlier in the semester, students made a ceramic birdbath, and now they’re going to decorate it with glaze and plant designs so it can be placed in the school garden with student-crafted plastic bottle birdfeeders and nestboxes, which will be placed at various locations around campus. The school vegetable garden is going to be supplemented by bird-friendly plants, and a team of students will be responsible for cleaning and filling the feeders and birdbath on a daily basis.

    During the event, each teacher and their students will be assigned a location with a feeder or a view of the school garden for their 10-minute CUBs observation. These periods will be staggered throughout the school day to accommodate as many groups as possible, and parents and community members will be invited to participate.

    This sounds like a wonderful Pennington Adopt-a-School Mini-grant project to us, and we think it will be a great success! Project leader Charlene Roth wrote us that, “We are motivated to make bird watching and bird care a vital aspect of campus life. We hope all of our students will become citizen scientists and enjoy birding activities throughout their lives.”

  • Audubon Center at Debs Park

    In northeast Los Angeles, the Debs Park Audubon Center partnered with four local public schools (Aldama Elementary, San Pascual Elementary School, Latona Elementary School, and Arroyo Seco Museum Science Magnet) to create pollinator-friendly gardens on their school grounds. With youth volunteers from the Arroyo Seco Green Team (the Audubon Center’s youth volunteer group), parents, staff, and students from the schools themselves, the Audubon Center hopes to help children interact with local nature and learn about the outdoors.

    Viviana Vallin, the project leader, worked with each school to choose the best location for a garden, and planned the specific design and the scheduling of a planting event (there was one big planting day for each school). Parents, staff, and student volunteers were split up into teams to help plant, water, and mulch the garden space, as well as put up hummingbird feeders and other elements to make the space complete.

    Volunteers also created label cards for the plants going in the garden, allowing them to use their artistic skills in painting the type of plants used, including their scientific and common name. In addition, art teachers at the schools will eventually be able to use the garden as a learning tool through activities like nature journaling and sketching.

    The Arroyo Green Team helped with the plantings and training of parent/student volunteers. During the event, the Audubon Center provided binoculars for volunteers to go on a short birding walk of their campus. This was done before the planting begins as a way to get everyone excited about the wildlife already present on their campus, and a great way to collect CUBs data! Volunteers also received support to participate in the Audubon Citizen Science program, Hummingbirds at Home, where they can help track local hummingbirds on their campus.

    The gardens will all be providing native habitat for neighborhood pollinators like the Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds, so volunteers were directly introduced to why native plants are beneficial for native birds, especially in the very urbanized area of Los Angeles.

    Viviana wrote us that, “This is truly a meaningful project that I feel will have a positive impact on the school campus and increase habitat for wildlife in Los Angeles,” and we agree! We’ll keep you posted with more photos of the events soon.

  • William E. Russell Elementary

    This past May, the William E. Russell Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts organized a “Bird Breakfast” to engage students, family and the community in science. The event was attended by 138 people, including members of the community. In preparation for the event, the elementary school took two weeks to teach their students about birds, they started off by asking them what they already knew about birds and then showing them the urban species that they’ll be able to find around the neighborhood.

    photo © Courtesy of Holly Rosa

    The event started out by serving breakfast to the students and their families. After the breakfast the students had a wildlife observation session in their Outdoor Classroom where they got to watch birds and try to identify them using CUBs data sheets and identification cards. The students had a lot of fun and were very engaged, says Holly Rose, their teacher. During their session they managed to spot pigeons, house sparrows, European starlings and a cardinal; they also found 5 bird nests around their school!

    photo © Courtesy of Holly Rosa
    In the second hour of the event the students had the opportunity to do more hands on work. The students got to use their creativity and painted beautiful bird houses that are sure to catch everyone’s attention. During this hour they also made two types of bird feeders, some with seeds and some with cheerios. One student was very excited to learn that birds eat cheerios too! Finally towards the end of the events all attendees helped plant flowers in the flowers beds around school. Engaging the students in greening teaches them the importance of having green spaces for birds.
    photo © Courtesy of Holly Rosa

    Overall the event was a complete success! Mr. Harrington, a student’s parent, said “this is such a cool event; I never had anything like this in school when I was growing up!” The event was enjoyed not only by the students, but also by their parents as well as the larger community.

  • Denver Center for International Studies

    photo © DCIS
    For the past three years, the Environmental Club at the Denver Center for International Studies in downtown Denver, Colorado has been developing a sustainable school vegetable garden with an “urban eclectic” theme. Despite the fact that they’re in the heart of the city, they see urban wildlife regularly on campus, and are planning on integrating this aspect of their neighborhood into the garden by attracting more birds to it.

    photo © DCIS
    The Environmental Club wants to put a bird bath and several bird feeders, including one for hummingbirds, in the garden, and get some permaculture plants up and growing for a “grand opening” event in May. During this event, science classes will be given a tour of the garden during the school day, and community members/parents are invited to tour the garden after school. The tour will include basic information about permaculture and sustainable agriculture, specific information about what vegetables are planted (as an international school they’ll devote raised beds to vegetables from different continents), and the types of plants that can attract birds in urban environments, like the drought-tolerant licorice hyssop, autumn sage, and echinacea.

    photo © DCIS
    As part of their weekly meetings, the Club will conduct bird observations. Art classes will follow the urban eclectic theme and adapt found objects to be used as planters in the garden, like an old chest of drawers which can be painted and house herbs.

  • CommonBond Skyline Tower Teen Program

    The Skyline Teen Program at the CommonBond Skyline Tower in St. Paul, Minnesota works to create engaging activities and events within its schedule that not only provide exciting opportunities to participating teens in a safe space, but also can be valuable to them educationally and in connecting them to their community. The group is scheduling a Teen Program Bird Week for late April, which they think will be a great opportunity to infuse their weekly program with a twist, educating participants about local birds in their community and letting them explore native species!

    The Teen Program is meeting with Project Get Outdoors on Friday 11 to learn about urban birds through observations so that Teen Council members will better be able to present information about various species of local birds during Bird Week.

    The Bird Week will kick off with a presentation with live birds from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, a perfect way to provide an exciting, engaging event that all of the program’s teens should be able to attend. Then, throughout the week, the Skyline Teen Advisory Council (STAC, made up of ten resident youth leaders) will give short presentations on five different native bird species to educate peers about local birds they might observe the upcoming Friday. That Friday, participants will walk to the nearby Dunning Field, which includes various athletic fields, a playground, park space, and even a community garden. The host of varied environments for birds at Dunning Field should make a good setting for a CUBs bird observation!

    All the Bird Week activities will be documented by STAC member videographers to be later compiled into a short video. This video will be posted so that Teen Program members can check it out and others can learn from what participants learned!

  • Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation / Lafayette Elementary School

    In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation and Lafayette Elementary School are working together to foster environmental stewardship and raise awareness of local birds among urban students and their families. They’re hoping to accomplish this by encouraging community members to pursue outdoor activities and providing students in the school’s extended day program a natural history component to enhance literacy through science.

    To show that science is fun and all around them, third- through fifth-graders in the Lafayette Elementary School’s science-based literacy enhancement extended day program and their families will participate in a Celebrate Urban Birds event organized by Lancaster County Park naturalists and Lafayette Elementary teachers on March 31 and April 1!

    Participants will receive identification hints for focal species, including some familiar species like American Robins, Mourning Doves, and American Crows, as well as the less frequently observed Black-crowned Night Herons and Baltimore Orioles. A bird bingo game with suet block prizes will reinforce the bird identifications. Everyone will then proceed outside for ten minutes of bird observation.

    Students will write about the day in their journals, but also use a set of oil pastels to create a work of art depicting their birding experience. Both Lafayette Elementary and Lancaster County Parks will host exhibitions of this student artwork. Look for photos of the event, including the student creations, in the next several weeks!

  • West New York Public School 4 Annex

    The Public School 4 Annex in the highly urbanized municipality of West New York, New Jersey, is trying to expose youth to natural features like bird habitats and build their awareness of wildlife and gardening despite the limited green space within the densely populated area clustered around New York City. As project leader Gisela Ferrer wrote us, “By exposing them to nature at an early age, we hope they will be encouraged to pursue the natural sciences in school or as careers.”

    The plan is to develop a wildlife garden, created by volunteer parents, students, teachers and community members, that attracts birds, beneficial insects and other wildlife. It will be used as a “discovery” garden for student lessons on native plants, insects, birds and other neighborhood animals, and an opening educational event will highlight the efforts of the volunteer team and provide information on urban wildlife and gardening through student art projects.

    This habitat garden will consist of a combination of in-ground plantings, raised beds, planter boxes and pots. Although most of the property is either paved or compacted and makes traditional gardening a challenge, the project team sees value in incorporating as much vegetation as possible by any means necessary, since West New York is highly urbanized and in dire need of added green space.

    The program will be conducted in coordination with the school district’s larger effort to promote fresh and locally-grown fruits and vegetables in its breakfast and lunch cafeteria program. Fresh fruits and vegetables have been successfully incorporated into the food service program over the last five years, leading to the installation of edible gardens for multiple schools within the district, as well as contracts with local farms. The habitat garden will create a more robust gardening program for students to enjoy. The gardening and nutrition program is very important in West New York because of the limited student exposure to agriculture and natural ecological systems.

    The educational event will include a demonstration of the 10-minute CUBs bird observation, so teachers and students will have performed some practice observations in advance as part of their lessons on birds and wildlife. Youth will develop artwork and handmade posters of birds they have seen on the school grounds or in public parks, incorporating their observations and data into their work. During the event, they will share the artwork and posters with visitors and also lead adult participants in performing a demonstration of a CUBs observation. Students will also create and decorate birdhouses to put in various locations on the school grounds.

  • Bedford Audubon Society

    This spring, the Bedford Audubon Society and the Saw Mill River Audubon Society plan on holding events with the Neighbors Link Community Center in Mount Kisco, New York. The two Audubon groups hope to reach beyond their traditional audience to better serve their dynamic and diverse communities, and more effectively protect migratory neotropical birds. Neighbors Link’s mission is to strengthen the whole community by actively enhancing the healthy integration of immigrants through education, empowerment, and employment. Last year, Bedford Audubon, Saw Mill River Audubon, and Neighbors Link partnered to foster greater integration, understanding, and nature appreciation in their shared community.

    This year they’re planning a trio of events to celebrate and conserve urban birds. The events will focus on identifying common urban birds, supporting birds through feeders and houses, and establishing native habitat for urban birds and butterflies. This winter they held a Bird Feeding Fair, where children in the Neighbors Link Family Center created posters about common urban birds that decorated a new Celebrate Urban Birds Learning Space in the Family Center. The Learning Space, adjacent to windows that overlook the bird feeders installed during the Bird Feeding Fair, was the perfect place to discuss bird feeder types, bird seed, and proper care for bird feeders and bird seed. It also provided a great way to conduct the 10-minute CUBs observations.

    The second event will be on April 25, during one of Neighbors Link’s regularly scheduled Family Nights. This event will be a Birdhouse Build. The children’s art project will be to create and decorate bird houses for the plush birds that are kept in the Celebrate Urban Birds Learning Space. After the dinner, participants will conduct another CUBs observation and then learn about different places where common urban birds nest, different styles of birdhouses, and how to care for birdhouses. Some birdhouses will be left at Neighbors Link to be installed, and others will be given to participants to take home.

    The third event will be on May 23, to establish a Little Green Place at Neighbors Link. Participants and volunteers will plant a native garden in the front of Neighbors Link and near the feeders outside the Family Center. This Little Green Place will not only support urban birds, but will also beautify Neighbors Link, which is located in a fairly industrial location. After dinner, the children’s art project will be to create a collaborative poster of native flowers and plants for the Celebrate Urban Birds Learning Space.

  • YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City

    The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is planning an afterschool program at Capitol Hill Elementary School starting this spring. Partnering with a local wildlife organization, they’ll have weekly lessons on the birds native to the state, and the children will explore the area around their school and keep a journal of written and drawn observations while outdoors.

    Staff will also work with participants and local library staff to obtain books on how to build a garden and what birds in the area like to eat so that the children can construct small portable gardens that will attract birds but can be moved inside in case of bad weather.

    During a culminating Celebration Event, the children will showcase what they have learned through their work (journals, photographs and other media) for their schoolmates, faculty and family to view, and lead visitors on an exploration of the school grounds looking for birds!

  • Kids at Home in the Wild

    Dekum Court, a residential complex in Portland, Oregon, is constructed in the shape of a U. In the center of the apartments are two playgrounds with a field and some young trees in between. The Kids at Home in the Wild group, as one of Oregon’s Volunteers of America projects, hopes to help increase the neighborhood youths’ sense of ownership in the community by further greening the open area in the middle of Dekum Court and making it a particularly bird-friendly place.

    The project began on February 15th when participating children and teens took an initial bird count of the project space in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count. They had reviewed the types of birds that live in Oregon and how to identify them by playing a modified head bands game, where the card on each person’s head was one of the birds that would be looking for. Each participant had a handout with pictures of all of the birds and their names on it. The purpose of the game was to inspire the youth to identify key features of each bird on their own by coming up with descriptive questions.

    On February 27th, working with Portland Youth Builders and the Portland Rebuilding Center, teenagers built their own birdhouses that will be placed in the yard at the next event in March. The wood was repurposed from the Portland Rebuilding Center, and each teen had the opportunity to tour the Rebuilding Center to find a way to use a donated item to make their birdhouse unique. In early March, Kids at Home in the Wild held an open community event where participants created bird feeders by stringing popcorn, collecting and creating pine cone feeders, making bird pudding, and building many other types of bird feeders from recycled items like panty hose and slinkies.

    Starting in early April, the group plans on putting two garden beds in place along the side of the community room, and planting them with bird-friendly plants that can tolerate Portland winters. The teens will have an opportunity to design the two beds, and will paint and build the beds together with younger participants to encourage more ownership from everyone in the program. In late May, they’ll conduct another bird count to compare their numbers to the first bird count and asses whether their efforts to create a bird haven have had any impact. Later on in the summer, Kids at Home in the Wild has a bunch of other great projects planned that we look forward to keeping you updated on!

    Project leader Madison Weakley wrote us,

    “This young generation is the most electronically intertwined yet. As this group continues to grow, their curiosity with the environment is getting sealed off and starved. A community project like this at Dekum could break that isolation. The center of the apartment complex is a space for engagement, and community celebration. There are so many relationships, skills, and positive characteristics waiting to be developed. An Urban Birds project with goals to utilize this space will serve to take advantage of all the potential that is waiting and wanting.”

  • Friends of Forsythe – 2014

    The Friends of Forsythe urban bird environmental education program, which we’ve featured in the past, is still working with students of Pleasantville, NJ public schools at Leeds Ave and Washington Ave through after-school projects. The group is a non-profit organization devoted to supporting the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey through a variety of education, conservation, and community involvement programs.

    Once a month, leaders of the program (the ‘bird people’) visit both schools and go on observation walks with students, recording what CUBs focal species they see and teaching the kids about the ‘Bird of the Month’. Using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s coloring book, students explore features of common birds in their area, and they also learn about important habitat needs for urban birds. As you can see from photos of the participants, students in the after-school program really enjoyed learning about birds!

  • Science Day in Ithaca

    photo © Marta del Campo
    On Saturday, February 22, an entertaining and informative event took place at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) in downtown Ithaca. It was a rewarding experience, as things often are when different organizations with missions to support their community decide to work with each other to create a collaborative event of activities for everyone!

    Organized by the Cornell Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the exposition was geared especially toward the local Latino community but open to all. They invited Celebrate Urban Birds to set up a space to promote citizen science and birds among all the young students and engineers from various programs at Cornell University. Together, all the different projects—from DNA analysis to bridge-building to astrophysics—showed local visitors the wonders of science and, for the younger members of the audience, the fantastic possibilities for future avenues of study and careers.

    photo © Marta del Campo
    The student organizers of the event were full of positive energy and willingness to share their vision of the accessibility of science. Their small demonstrations, often hands-on for participants, helped make the complex theory behind certain engineering principles easier for everyone to understand and experience for themselves. For our own part, we tried to give people an idea of the birds that live around us in urban areas and how we can appreciate and help them!

    photo © Marta del Campo
    We were able to open a window into the often unseen lives of birds in the spring by bringing actual bird nests to GIAC, along with photos of the species that made them. The goal was to get people excited about heading out into the fresh air and looking for these crafted signs of spring in the upcoming months, even in urban Ithaca. Kids and adults alike were awed by the extraordinary construction skills displayed by birds, asking questions like, “What materials do they use?” “How can the Baltimore Oriole weave without hands?” “Where do American Robins nest?” and “Do Blue Jays mix up all the different types of nesting material together on purpose?”

    These types of questions showed us how fascinating people found the feats of engineering embodied in the careful and dedicated work of bird nests. It’s not every day that you get to see the majestically woven basket nest of a Baltimore Oriole—much less gently touch it! By seeing these wonders up close, we hope both the adults and kids who visited our station will be keeping an eye out for the nests that are invariably built around them in a green city like Ithaca: nature is just around the corner!

    photo © Marta del Campo
    With support from the Museum of Vertebrates at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we were also able to take a small sample of the hundreds of specimens of birds in the collection to show visitors, and it was a great success. People who stopped by our table were stunned by the elegant beauty of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and the lustrous black feathers of the American Crow, as well as the other half-dozen species we brought out. In addition to these real-life bird examples, we brought our CUBs materials on bird-friendly gardening and focal species posters, including Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds for people to take home and plant on their balconies or in their backyard. Hopefully they’ll grow into urban beautifiers that will also help local bird life!

    photo © Marta del Campo
    It was really wonderful to see how interested and curious the families who visited each table at the Science Day exposition were, as well as how engaging the student volunteers from Cornell could be on an early Saturday morning. Most of the stations had interactive presentations to reach people of all ages and regardless of scientific background knowledge. For example, the textile research group had some microscopes hooked up to a digital screen so that people could look at the minuscule details of fibers and fabrics, as well as other interesting things like grasshoppers, twigs, and of course the Baltimore Oriole nest
    photo © Marta del Campo
    we brought! The astronomers had a table dedicated to wonders of the universe such as supernovas, suns, and planets, making the day a series of marvels from the microscopic to the macrocosmic, all brought within reach of everyone visiting GIAC.

    Thanks to the Cornell Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, students were able to share nature’s fascinating forms, and the ways in which we study them, with local Ithaca residents who otherwise might not always be able to learn about Cornell’s research programs. Hopefully this will become a yearly event to stimulate curiosity, generate interest in technological innovation and scientific research, and celebrate community. Thank you to all the volunteers who invited us to participate and made this day of science-sharing happen!

  • 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!

  • Bronx Public School 126, Dr. Marjorie H. Dunbar

    The second-grade students of P.S. 126 in Bronx, NY have big plans for this spring. These young members of the Highbridge community are going to adopt trees in the nearby Nelson Park and over the course of their school semester they will complete a series of observations of the birds that frequent their tree.

    The students will keep a bird journal where they’ll record notes, drawings, questions, and information about birds that they see, and after weeks of conducting these observations these journals will be compared and organized into a report that students will share at a presentation in Nelson Park in late May.

    In addition to the journals, students will also create bird nests from natural materials found on nature walks, which they’ve already started collecting. They are already very excited about the event and will soon be drawing and sketching plans of their nests. which eventually will go on display in classrooms. Photos will be featured on a blog that will share the second graders’ progress over the semester.

    This should be an excellent way to expose and educate kids on the importance of urban birds, their habitats, and behaviors, and we look forward to sharing updates from this project over the next several months!

    Update:

    In late April, students had the opportunity to investigate owl pellets! This type of activity is great because it allows participants to explore real fur and bones and figure out what the raptors’ diet is like through scientific inquiry and patient examination. Check out the slideshow of photos by Veronica Horton below.

  • Murray Grove Birding Club

    The Murray Grove Birding Club of Lacey Township, NJ was started in September 2013 as an after-school program led by George Morgan, whose wonderful work we have shared previously. They have been doing some great things this year with Celebrate Urban Birds. They advertised their program in two elementary schools in the district, Lanoka Harbor School and Cedar Creek Elementary, as an after school program. The program attracted 26 students from both schools. They met for 1.5 hours every month for the entire school year.

    photo © Courtesy of George Morgan

    For the duration of the program, the participants studied almost all of the birds on the program list. During some of the sessions they would study the bird of the month using Golden Guides to Birding that were donated to them, coloring pictures of the bird, and filling in pertinent questions about the bird. They also did population counts outside for 10-15 minutes. The sessions also included an activity of the day related to the day’s session.

    photo © Courtesy of George Morgan
    Some of the activities the participants engaged in were making a Mourning Dove nest and Bird beak Café in which they used ordinary utensils to test which were more effective in picking up seeds. They also made different kinds of bird feeders, including pine cones with peanut butter and feeders made with pipe cleaners. The participants also recycled milk cartons and made some more bird feeders out of those. Other activities included storytelling and poetry about birds, painting watercolors of birds, etc.
    photo © Courtesy of George Morgan

    Some of the most important activities the group did, however, were those outdoors. Outdoor activities are great because they give people the chance to interact directly with nature. The participants of this great program were able to plant some sunflowers and care for them as well as practice their observation skills using binoculars that were donated by a generous benefactor.The kids also played bird Olympics, where they imitated bird movements and sounds.
    photo © Courtesy of George Morgan

    the program was a complete success and all the people involved had lots of fun. Some of the participants’ parents also attended the program and received completion certificates as well. The end of the program was celebrated with a picnic and a Celebrate Urban Birds cake! All of the students loved the program and look forward to participating again next year.

  • Nationwide Boy Scout Celebrate Urban Birds Project

    Ben Gormley is a young Eagle Scout in Indiana with a dedication to conservation and community involvement. A recipient of the William T. Hornaday Badge for distinguished service in natural resource conservation, Ben helped start the first monofilament fishing line recycling program in Indiana, directed a project to remove invasive honeysuckle from a large local park, and led a series of Leave No Trace activities with the local community, to say nothing of the other accomplishments indicated by his 137 out of 137 available Merit Badges!

    Now, Ben is striving for a distinguished Hornaday Medal with his latest worthy enterprise: get a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troop in every state in the country to participate in a bird count. His hope is that this nationwide project will increase scouts’ awareness of their local avifauna, and we think this is a great way to bring the BSA together to learn how to maintain bird-friendly habitat in their neighborhoods!

    So far, Ben has worked with his fellow Scouts to construct and place ten nestboxes in public park areas in their community and nearby.

    Here’s a shout-out to the Troops that have signed themselves up to celebrate birds so far:

    • Alaska Troop 229
    • Connecticut Troop 175
    • Delaware Troop 24
    • Georgia Troop 522
    • Idaho Troop 201
    • Illinois Troop 96
    • Indiana Troop 202
    • Iowa Troop 182
    • Michigan Troop 755
    • Montana Troop 1911
    • Nebraska Troop 25
    • New Mexico Troop 166
    • Oklahoma Troop 168
    • Oregon Troop 1
    • South Dakota Troop 131
    • Texas Troop 365
    • Vermont Troop 611
    • Wisconsin Troop 62
    • Wyoming Troop 221

    Keep coming back to this page to watch the list grow and get updates on when the big Boy Scouts bird count will happen!