The Grupo de Ornitólogos del Maule (Maule’s Ornithology Group) initiated a regional project with the goal of bringing the wonders of local birds to youth in the schools of El Maule, Chile. The group was able to implement fun and educational activities thanks in part to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology mini-grant for Latin American and Caribbean organizations and support from the Chilean Birding and Wildlife Watching Community (Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile, ROC), an organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and wildlife in Chile. These activities stimulated interest in birds and the environment among youth, their teachers and families.
The group first connected and networked with schools in the region along with science education and outreach programs including CONICYT’s (PAR) Explora Maule program that they finance. They also networked with research centers such as the Agrupación Raíces del Licray, Fruit Pathology Lab of the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Institute of Biological Sciences of the University of Talca. The goal was to engage as many organizations as possible in the project so that the youth could learn about their local birds, conservation, science, and the environment from different perspectives while having fun and spending time outdoors.
One of the first activities was to create bird clubs in ten local elementary and middle (public and private) schools: Escuela Januario Espinoza, Escuela Claro de Luna, Escuela la Alborada, Escuela Carlos Ibañez del Campo, Escuela Cooperativa de Lircay, Escuela de Panguilemo, Colegio Constitución, Escuela especial UNPADE, Colegio San Esteban, Escuela las Arboledas. Each club had a theme relating to biology, ecology and bird adaptations that promoted the use of the scientific method and enjoyment of the outdoors. The participants shared knowledge about the diversity of Chilean birds, their general characteristics, and the conservation issues faced in rural and urban areas. They also became familiar with the eBird Chile platform and how to enter data.
One of the most amazing places to collect data was the botanical garden of the Universidad de Talca (University of Talca)! The group bird walks inspired students to continue birdwatching in other places with their friends. The students shared their bird data to create a bird census in the area under the supervision of Cristian Muñoz, Diego Miranda, Luis Araya and professionals from Explora Maule.
The students also enjoyed the visit to the Humedal of Putú (Putu Wetlands), which was the first site of interest to identify 131 bird species in the Maule region. The children were amazed by the local birds and had a great deal of fun on the bird walks! At the end of the season, the bird clubs hosted a ceremony where the students presented their field experiments and everything they had learned.
The Ornithology clubs were also about to include the participation of special needs children of the Colegio Claro de Luna in Yerbas Buenas and from the Escuela UNPADE de Talca. Teachers and students were able to integrate themselves in the project with much enthusiasm!
The children were very happy to participate in the bird workshops where they learned more about local birds and were encouraged to participate in science activities. For example, students in the Pencahue team of Complejo Educacional Maule were actively involved in a research project to determine whether or not local birds utilize human waste in the construction of their nests, titled: “Nests of Plastic: witnesses of human contamination.” Their research was so impressive that they won First Place in various school science fairs and qualified for the Regional Science and Technology Fair. Another team focused on the effects of forest fires on birds habitats in Pencahue. This project won First Place at the Science Fair organized by the University of Talca!
Finally, they worked with the Colegio Educacional Maule realizing 6 workshops with 20 5th grade students and their science teacher, Viviana Bravo. During the workshops, the boys and girls were able to learn about bird biology and ecology and to use the eBird platform.
Part of the project was featured on the Celebrate Urban Birds Instagram, here: https://bit.ly/2PzTopU
To learn more about all the activities that are happening in el Maule, please visit the following links:
Photos are courtesy of Club de Ornitólogos del Maule. Article and webpage were created by Natalie Bonilla and Sanjna Das.