Colombian kids enjoy nature and local birds thanks to Asociación Calidris

March 1st – December 1st, 2020
Santiago de Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia

The Asociación Calidris (Calidris Association) is a Colombian organization founded in the city of Santiago de Cali, located in the department of Valle del Cuaca. Since 1989, its members have focused their efforts on the conservation of birds and their habitats. They carry out community projects, environmental education programs, research, and promote sustainable productive practices in the region. Since 2015, they also lead a bird census in 24 localities in Santiago de Cali and surrounding towns, engaging 24 communities, where they present talks and facilitate workshops about birds, habitat, citizen science and local conservation actions for youth and their families. In 2019, The Calidris Association won a Celebrate Urban Birds mini-grant for supporting their fantastic educational initiatives in the region. The mini-grant activities were in large part led and organized by Dina Luz Estupiñan, one of the fantasitic educators and investigators of Calidris Association.

One of their main goals for the mini-grant activities was to engage with youth and educators from two new communities in the region. In the first, they had the support and enthusiasm of the teacher Carlos Loaiza, who teaches at the Colegio Multipropósito (Multipropósito High School) located in the basin of the Cañaveralejo river. The second community is located next to the Cali River and the teacher Eliana Castillo led the activities with elementary school children from the Fundación Soñadores del Barrio (Neighborhood Dreamers Foundation). Their primary objective was to create habitat for birds with the participation of local educators and youth in these two communities. The program was a total success!

The first meeting: Learning about the birds of my city

The kids were divided into groups and taught about birds through several interactive workshops. Many kids were interested in learning about the anatomical characteristics of birds that separate them from other animals. During the workshops, the kids also learned how to be friendly to birds and how they can make a positive impact through conservation actions in their communities from their homes, schools, and neighborhoods.

Activities at Colegio Multipropóstio

Since 2018, Carlos Loaiza has worked with high school students interested in learning about the birds at the park next to their school. Thus, it was easy to conduct the first workshops with their help. The workshops began in the second half of 2019 at the Multipropósito High School in rio Cañaveralejo. As part of the activities, Carlos and the students completed three birdwatching outings, in which they followed the Celebrate Urban Birds protocols to collect bird data. Once they finished the birdwatching phase, students carried out a workshop to reinforce what they had observed in their outings. Each student had a journal, which included information about common local birds, bird body parts, how to protect birds locally, and lists of bird species present in the region, plus notes of their observations. In one of the workshops, students had a lot of fun creating flowerpots out of recycled bottles. They also planted seeds in their high school yard and thus, created a garden to help birds and pollinators in their neighborhood. Mr. Carlos Loaiza is a fantastic bird photographer and so was a tremendous help with his photos as well!

Soon after the workshops at Multipropósito High School, this presentation was shared with the younger kids of La Fortuna community near the Cali River. The older students shared with the younger kids what they had learned about the different species of birds near the Cañaveralejo River. During this visit the parents and students were invited to a special workshop about the importance of using compost and its impact on soil, plants, and the local environment. They learned how to use the compost and even how to make it in their own homes! What an amazing experience for everyone! The community leaders found it especially inspiring how the older kids motivated and shared their knowledge with those kids younger than them. How amazing!

Activities at La Fortuna

Calidris Association’s members facilitated workshops with the kids of La Fortuna community in March 2020, right before the beginning of quarantine due to the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the first and most fun activities for the kids was painting their favorite birds. Kids learned about the bird body parts, colors and details through their paintings. Educators also explained the importance of each body part to the birds’ survival in nature.

Although the arrival of the Covid-19 Pandemic then forced educators to stop these fun and educational workshops, they proved resilient and resumed in December 2020, following the recommended sanitary precautions. Then, the leaders took the kids to a beautiful wetland area called Ecoparque Lago de las Garzas, located in the south of the city, near the Pance river. The children and their guides explored the area looking for birds and enjoying the time outdoors. Soon after the fun outing each child presented about a local bird species of their choice: what it eats, where it lives, and more. Through each other’s presentations everyone learned about the differences in beak and leg shapes that different types of bird species have. The children also made a pact to keep learning about and protecting the wild birds in their neighborhoods. In a follow up meeting, the children also made flowerpots out of recycled bottles and planted new vegetation for the birds. What a special experience!

After the series of workshops in both communities, some of the students have shown interests and developments that go beyond what they learned in the workshops. Among the older kids, Mario wants to be a biologist and is looking for a way to attend university. Sebastián, Jonas and Yudi are still studying virtually and have not returned to high school since March of 2020. The garden planted by the youth has flourished and is being protected by students who visit the school. Once the kids return to school, Mr. Carlos Loaiza hopes to continue the process of learning and advancing the protection of the surrounding wetlands and their birds. The Calidris’ members continue to support the teachers in a process of developing environmental awareness in the students and their families in both communities.


The members of the Calidris Association would like to especially thank the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their support through the Celebrate Urban Birds mini-grant; the Calidris Association especially Dina Luz Estupiñan for her leadership and coordination of the activities and Luis Fernando Castillo for his help and trust. Also, Patricia Falk and Alexander Morales for reviewing and helping adjust and plan the activities, Diana Patricia Ramirez and Eliana López for joining in and helping out during the workshops. Isabel Muñoz of the Cali Zoo who helped to contact the leaders of La Fortuna community, Elaiana Castillo, Weimar Castillo, María Fernanda Mecha, and Yisela Marín, who welcomed facilitators in the Fundación Soñadores de Barrio and let them share what they know with the kids. Thank you! They also thank each parent that trusted in the Calidris educators during the nature outings and workshops. Thanks to all the boys and girls for their amazing participation in all the activities, to the directors of the Multipropósito High School and their president, Amparo Pereira, to Nicol Johana Cardozo for facilitating the contact with the amusing teacher Carlos Loaiza, and to Mr. Loaiza himself, who was always accompanying the students and was a tremendous help in all the activities. And finally, to all the people who followed this process from afar – thank you!

Page by Correy Hasson.

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