The Colombian teacher, Edgar Hoyos, has been an active community member for many years in Ebejico, Colombia. He is known as an inspiring educator, especially by youth. When Mr. Hoyos began to take a tally of the birds he observed in his neighborhood and put pictures up on his home’s front wall he did not know that it would be the beginning of an inspiring journey and the driving force behind the birth of the youth group Pájaros de Mi Vereda (Birds of My Neighborhood) in Ebejico, Department of Antioquia, Colombia.
Little by little, students began to compare the bird pictures he had on his wall to the birds they saw while walking to and from school. They would excitedly tell Mr. Hoyos the birds they saw, even describing some species he had not observed himself. Mr. Hoyos decided to give the students outlines of birds that they could color and invited students to draw the birds they observed around them. As the student’s interest in birds grew the youth group Pájaros de mi Vereda, (Birds of my Neighborhood) was born. The group is led by Mr. Hoyos and Miss Sandy Ramirez, also a fantastic and inspiring teacher at the local school. What started as a personal interest project has grown into the first educational group centered around birds in the region.
Pájaros de mi Vereda is a birdwatching youth group dedicated to observation and learning about the local birds and connecting with the wonderful environment they inhabit. Students are encouraged to collaborate by sharing information about the birds that they observe and working on creative projects to document their discoveries about these birds. The students are given the opportunity to connect to professionals dedicated to studying and protecting birds and nature. These connections help students build a strong network of connections and explore various potential career paths like eco-toursim and ornithology, environmentally conscious careers that are little known in rural areas. These connections also help students build a strong network of connections early on and explore various potential career paths usually little known in rural areas.
One of the group’s main objectives is to help students identify and discover the wonders of the bird species that inhabit their neighborhood. The students build bonds with the local birds and grow a passion for them and their conservation. They also gain opportunities to work together, share, and go on local birdwatching hikes. Many other community members take part in these events, further enriching the experience. Friends, families, and even tourists often attend birdwatching events with the group. Family members also enjoy sharing stories and talking about the beautiful birds they see in their backyards. During some events the group cuts up fruit such as peeled bananas and cut oranges and places the fruit out to attract the birds. They then watch from afar and take pictures as the birds enjoy the delicious treats. The group takes a holistic approach to teaching the students about the environment. One of the most important objectives of the group is to foster a profound connection between the students and nature and to encourage the students be a part of the natural world where they can live in balance with the local wildlife.
The 30 students that are a part of Pájaros de mi Vereda are between 8 and 16 years old and most of them go to the local rural school. The students are encouraged to tally the birds they watch and photograph them to eventually create a book about local birds. This bird book will allow the students to document what bird species they see and take notes on their behaviors and interesting interactions. Over time the students will create a record of their observations. This will allow them to understand all they have learned about the species that share their neighborhood. They also borrow books from Mr. Hoyos to learn more about bird species and to help identify different birds correctly. Some students also like to participate in creative writing activities by writing stories centered around their favorite birds or other wildlife. During meetings Mr. Hoyos and Miss Ramirez also share educational videos with the students or lead engaging discussions. Throughout their time in the group the students learn how to identify and understand bird behaviors. They learn about the beaks, wings, and feet of birds to understand the birds’ diet and what part of the environment they prefer, and more.
Pájaros de mi Vereda is loved by the entire community, especially the students that have grown up with this group as an important part of their lives. Many of the students who have been a part of the group for many years are able to complete their own projects and present them to the group. One student wrote about her project: “I initiated the activities with the premise that: knowledge will make us better people.” The students use their curiosity to seek more knowledge about birds and their environment. They look for opportunities to observe birds and ask questions about them. Another student said that she had never paid attention to nature before. However, now as she walks through her neighborhood from school, she looks at the birds, the bees, the insects, the flowers, and the butterflies with joy. The students involved in Pájaros de mi Vereda are often interested in pursuing conservation or education fields professionally, a deep and positive impact on career paths in rural Colombia.
The group also embarks on various outings and often invites other community members and families to join. They have explored the Arvi Park, Explore Park, Santa Fe Medellín Zoo, Joaquín Antonio Uribe Medellín Botanical Gardens, and School of Administration, Finance and Technological Institute, EAFIT University (Escuela de Administración, Finanzas e Instituto Tecnológico). Pájaros de mi Vereda has brought the attention of over 200 tourists, who love the opportunity to birdwatch with the Pájaros de mi Vereda students and their families. This growth in tourism has also benefited the economy of the local community.
Pájaros de mi Vereda is a respected and admired organization in the region for its work and dedication to birds and their conservation, but most importantly for the strong impact that the group has had on the community’s youth and the educational opportunities it provides the students. The group has been recognized by several organizations for its great accomplishments with the students. The group received the Educational and Environmental Initiative prize in 2016 and 2017 from the Antioquia Regional Corporation (Corporación Regional de Antioquia). Because of the group’s incredible work and impact on its community it was invited for the fourth year to attend the Antioquia Birding Society (SAO) event to share their experiences with birdwatching and educational initiatives. Here they received a prize for their work from CORANTIOQUIA. Pájaros de mi Vereda also received the recognition from in 2017 and 2018 from the Ebéjico Municipal Council (Consejo Municipal de Ebéjico) and the UMATA Ebejicana for the CORANTIOQUIA “Todo Una Vida” category. In 2017 the group was recognized by the Ministry of Technological Science and Investigation of Colombia, MINTIC, (Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnología e Investigación de Colombia). In 2020, they were recognized by DEVIMAR (La Concesionaria Desarrollo Via al Mar). Congratulations to this group on their wonderful accomplishments!