Families Celebrate Urban Birds in Bolivia with the Help of Their Cell Phones

July 5th, 2017
Cochabamba, Bolivia

It’s hard for children to enjoy the outdoors without checking their phones, or other forms of technology, every couple of minutes! Even so, the REDES Foundation wanted to use technology as a tool to connect children with birds and the outdoors. As recipients of a Celebrate Urban Birds mini-grant, they created a fantastic event in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for children (9 to 12-year-old kids) and their parents to use cell phones to explore birds and the outdoors! The goal of this innovative program was to reconnect families, get participants to enjoy the outdoors, and increase bird citizen science participation in Bolivia.

The event was a total success! During a bird walk along the Botanical Garden in Cochabamba, college students helped kids and their parents identify local birds and record their bird observations on eBird, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology citizen science program with a smartphone app. The app allows anyone to submit bird data observations from any location in the world! The children were excited to look for birds with their parents, take photos, and register their bird observations and digital images in eBird as a family.

Instead of playing phone games or texting, kids were thrilled to begin using their phone camera to zoom in on the beautiful birds found in their community and take pictures of local plants. Bird walks helped participants to better understand the importance of conservation efforts aimed at protecting birds and the environment. The best photographs were printed and presented to the local community in an art exhibit. As the children and their parents talked about the birds they observed, the community’s interest in bird citizen science and conservation increased, and everyone in the group was happy to be involved with helping their local birds and environment!

In one of the last bird walks, the group visited a nearby river. Surrounded by the beauty of Bolivia, the children played together as parents talked amongst themselves. It was clear that family bonds grew and strengthened; parents were glad to have participated in an event dedicated to helping their children connect to the nature surrounding them. Miriam Rojas, the Executive Psychologist of REDES Foundation, described the children playing in the river by saying, “They are so much more expressive… they laugh amongst themselves…the experiences they are having right now will be very meaningful throughout their life.” Through technology, the participants have become passionate about the conservation of birds and the environment, and will introduce that passion to everyone they meet!

Families went home excited, with materials on how to continue helping local birds and bird citizen science. They also left knowing local places they could take friends and other family members to enjoy nature. The Executive President of the REDES Foundation José Eduardo summarized the event by saying, “Children who did not communicate with their parents now do, they observe birds and report their findings together. The observations do not only stay on their phones. The whole experience stays with them.” The tremendous work dedicated to this event was worthwhile, as it helped families come together and share an educational experience about birds.

Christopher, a student who participated in the program, took his amazing experience with him on his family vacation to Peru. He captured outstanding photographs of the birds he saw! He used materials presented in the event like the Filmovil Photography Manual and eBird to bond with his dad over the beautiful birds. In an interview he reflected on his cell phone and the environment:

“I think everyone can learn to use their cell phones as a way to enjoy birds and nature… It makes me think about our environment… using my cell phone gives me a new perspective of the world, capturing everything around me is breathtaking. You can feel and see so many things with just one picture.”

He also commented about eBird:

“I feel the same excitement when I go to eBird.org, where I can see so many birds from different parts of the world! I feel so lucky to show everyone I know the birds I saw on my trip, and know that there are so much more out there!”

To read Christopher’s full interview click here!

To see the video made by the REDES Foundation about the event click here! (in Spanish)


This page was created by: Ashley Calderón

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