A few months ago in Puerto Rico, Leaders for the World, Inc. organized the second Urban Birds of the Cantera Peninsula Celebration, working with a CUBs mini-grant and twelve- to eighteen-year-olds who are part of the Proyecto Eco-Cantera Jóvenes Pro Conservación, or the Pro-conservation Eco-Cantera Youth Project. The Eco-Cantera project, which is one of Leaders for the World’s educational initiatives, seeks to encourage youth consciousness of nature in the Cantera Peninsula as well as their leadership in future environmental conservation efforts. Through activities and workshops, Eco-Cantera participants learn how to identify and study wildlife in their community, and become more appreciative of the value of both their natural and cultural surroundings. The program also stimulates creativity and development of new ideas, projects, and activities that can motivate the education and stewardship of participants’ peers and neighbors.
The Urban Birds of the Cantera Peninsula Celebration focused on educational activities that taught about identification, appreciation, and protection of birds in urban habitats, and emphasized the sense that both birds and humans belong to the same environmental community. This year, three activities were developed: Observing and Identifying Our Urban Birds, Growing Plants for Our Urban Birds, and Create Your Favorite Urban Bird. Follow the Eco-Cantera youth through their projects below!
Observing and Identifying Our Urban Birds
Leaders for the World was grateful for the assistance they received from Fernando Silva, Founder and Director of the Institute of Sciences for the Conservation of Puerto Rico, Eliezer Nieves, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and Ángel Soldevila, a biologist. These professionals volunteered their time to show participants about birds and wildlife in the Cantera Peninsula, and served as guides and teachers during bird observations and data collection. These observations took place in three separate locations in the community: the coast of Los Corozos Lagoon, the Community Center Plaza/Las Margaritas neighborhood, and El Mirador, the point of highest elevation in the area.
In each of these distinct ecosystems youth were able to spot different bird species and identify them with the help of their chaperones and a copy of ‘Birds of Puerto Rico Through Photographs’ by Mark W. Oberle. Armed with cameras, binoculars, and good old pen-and-paper, participants completed their 10-minute observations and were satisfied with a job well done. Although the only CUBs focal species seen were the Rock Pigeon and House Sparrow, they compiled lists that included seventeen other native species, like the wonderful Green-throated Carib, the robin-like Red-legged Thrush, and the piratical Magnificent Frigatebird. The Greater Antillean Grackle was the most frequently seen species, with 29 individuals spotted around the Community Center Plaza alone!
Growing Plants for Our Urban Birds
For this activity, Eco-Cantera participants walked to the community garden in the Bravos de Boston neighborhood, where volunteers Ana Del Valle and Sonia Ramos taught them about the history of the garden’s establishment and the need to save public urban spaces for the enjoyment of community members. They also showed participants how to plant and care for seeds, while Mr. Nieves gave a brief talk on the importance of trees to birds’ life cycles. Seeds provided by CUBs were planted, and when they grow large enough they’ll be transplanted into areas around the community for the neighborhood’s enjoyment.
Create Your Favorite Urban Bird
We all know that using the arts as a teaching tool greatly enriches the learning experience and allows for the application of knowledge in a more fun way. In this final activity, participants were taught about the importance of looking closely and examining significant and distinguishing features of birds. Species seen during the observation activity were largely the inspiration for artwork. Eco-Cantera facilitators Enid Martínez and Debbie Boneta reviewed the distinctive characteristics of common local birds (each participant got a photo of a different bird) and went through the various materials that could be used for artwork.
With many types of paper and organic or recycled material, as well as coloring media from watercolors to varnishing spray-paint, the youth created fantastic artwork that will be displayed at a future Eco-Cantera event. In the photo on the right, Eco-Cantera participant Desirée shows her mixed-media representation of a Red-legged Thrush, while on the left we have Deimary working on a collage of a Purple Gallinule.
At the end of the Urban Birds of the Cantera Peninsula Celebration, all participants expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to learn so much about the nature around them. Yarisel Lozano and Debbie Boneta, part of the Leaders for the World, Inc. team, wrote us to share their experiences with the event, and said that, “Through the process of species identification, these youth don’t only recognize or encounter birds hidden in urban structures, but discover themselves by walking through their hometown and stopping to look around in the unique space. By seeing life in the trees and the lagoon, in the buildings, homes, and streets, they are coming in contact with a perspective of their community that otherwise would never have been revealed to them.”