The now retired University professor from Colombian, Edgar Hoyos Patiño, has been an active community member for many years in The Renta neighborhood, in the Municipality of Ebejico, In the Department of Antioquia, Colombia.
The youth of the community know him as an inspiring educator, dedicated to his work. When Mr. Hoyos Patiño began to ask himself what were the birds that were seen, and cohabitated in his neighborhood and share his findings with his community and put pictures up on his home’s front wall he did not know that it would be the beginning of an inspiring journey of scientific investigation and citizen science.
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.
The students’ interest in birds grew daily and thus the Grupo Observadores De Aves (Bird Observation Group) – GOA – was born, with its project called Birds of My Neighborhood. The group is led by Mr. Hoyos and Miss Sandy Ramirez, also a fantastic and inspiring teacher at the Institución Educativa Boyacá (Educational Institute of Boyacá). 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. The group helps students connect with the environment, work for their holistic conservation, and learn about developing sustainability. 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.
Thanks to these connections, students build a strong network and explore various potential career paths like eco-toursim, ornithology, biology, environmental engineering, and other environmentally conscious careers that are little known in rural areas.
The group helps 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 as well as environmentally or culturally focused activities. The entire community is able to use these events to develop their love and respect for the birds and 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. Two of the groups core beliefs are “By understanding nature we can love and respect it, and love and respect each other” and “We cannot love what we do not know”.
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.
The group hold meetings where the students participate in various educational activities such as, creative writing, drawing, reading about local birds, and watching educational. The group also often goes on bird watching outings with family and other community members. The students have been able to visit other neighborhoods such as La Sucia, La Volcana, Gramala, Sagua, La Montañuela, la Saguacita, La Maritú, Las Coles y El Retiro.
Additionally, 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).
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, Young Birds watchers’ Cultural and Environmental Festiva,l to share their experiences with birdwatching and educational initiatives. Here they received a prize for their work from CORANTIOQUIA.
These experiences are incredibly important for the group because for many of the children it is the first time they visit the departments capital city and enjoy its attractions, such as riding the train, or seeing the over the hills on the Metro Cable.
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. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the group was unable to host these events. As the situation gets better they are excited to hear from tourists who are interested in attending birdwatching outings with the group.
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:
“I never paid much attention to nature before, but now I walk through my neighborhood and school, seeing the birds, the bees, the insects, the flowers, and the butterflies with joy.”
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). 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). Recently the group won a mini-grant from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Latin-American and Caribbean Initiatives, to support their activities in 2021. They have also won a trophy as the Featured Youth Group 2021, for their municipality, from the Municipal Youth Secretary and the administration of Mr. Alcalde Edison Ariel Tamayo Maya.
Congratulations to professor Edgar Hoyos Patiño, Sandy Aleida Ramirez and especially to all of the students that have participated in Birds of My Neighborhood, on their wonderful accomplishments!