Meet the birds of your community with Reserva Toh in Quitana Roo, Mexico!

December 5th – December 8th, 2018
Quintana Roo, Mexico

The Toh Foundation (Fundación Toh), a winner of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology Latin America and Caribbean mini-grants, held four environmental education workshops for children from four communities of the Municipality of Puerto Morelos in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The children that participated were from the communities of Leona Vicario, Central Vallarta, Delirios and Puerto Morelos. They shared what they already knew about birds and learned even more, especially about the birds in their region. Among the many amazing activities, the children enjoyed drawing their favorite birds they’ve seen in their community! They also made bird kites and took birdwalks inside the Toh Nature Preserve to watch the diversity of the birds around them. One of the main objectives of the activities was to get people of all ages interested in citizen science and increase their appreciation for birds and conservation efforts in the region. The activities were a success!

During the workshop “Meet the birds of your community“, participants had the chance to experience avitourism activities of low environmental impact while enjoying the outdoors and the beautiful birds in the region. The activities were carried out with the help of the staff of the local Wildlife Conservation and Management Unit (Unidad de Manejo y Conservación de Vida Silvestre, UMA), and the Center for Bird Conservation of the Mayan World: Toh Nature Preserve. This natural area has almost 500 amazing acres (200 hectares) full of wildlife and of course, a huge diversity of birds! Many participants arrived at the workshops, including representatives of local groups such as scouts, schools, community organizations, civic associations, universities and more. They were all excited to be there with the goal of observing, learning, conserving and above all, enjoying the beautiful wild birds of the region in their natural habitat.

The workshops were also attended by authorities of the region, representatives of Protected Natural Areas (Áreas Naturales Protegidas, ANP), as well as representatives of the Puerto Morelos National Park of Reefs (Parque Nacional de Arrecifes de Puerto Morelos). They all helped in promoting habitat protection for birds and conducting environmental education workshops in rural communities and schools near the Nature Preserve. This was outstanding as community members became more aware of the importance of conserving their natural environment, and in particular, their wonderful birds.

Workshops in the community of Leona Vicario

In the community of Leona Vicario, two environmental education workshops were held for two sixth-grade groups at Simón Bolívar Elementary School. The first workshop began with a warm welcome to all participants followed by an explanation of the morning activities. The students then had the opportunity to talk about the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the characteristics of a bird, what they think of birds and finally the diversity of birds. The children enjoyed sharing their knowledge on the subject. They asked questions and learned more about birds in general, and their local birds.

Later on, each student drew a bird that he or she thought represented the region and the community. It was wonderful to see the students identify the different colors and different shapes of the beaks, feathers, and legs of the birds. They then made a kite and added the bird they drew to it. The participants took the kites home to fly in their neighborhoods with family and friends. The group was very engaged! They asked more about the behaviors and habitats of local birds. They also shared their experiences about birds in the community. In this way, everyone learned from one another, which made the experience all the more fruitful. The participants then returned home while watching birds on their way home.

The second workshop was held in the same school but with students from the afternoon session. This workshop also began with a warm welcome to the group outlining the purpose of the workshop. The environmental conservation themes of the workshop were presented—starting with the evolution of the birds from the dinosaurs. They then talked about the characteristics that make a bird, a bird and finally the amazing diversity of the birds. As in the previous workshop, there was great student participation in everyone sharing their experiences with the birds in their community. It was great and above all entertaining for everyone!

Later, each student colored a bird from his or her community in order to identify its physical characteristics (ex. the shape and color of the plumage, beak, and legs). When they finished coloring the bird, they cut it out and started making their kite in the shape and colors that they chose. They also glued the bird drawing on the kite. The result was beautiful! Each kite was an explosion of colors. It was amazing to see the creativity of the children, who captured the diversity of the local birds in their drawings.

Workshops in the community of Delirios and Central Vallarta

Delirios and Central Vallarta are two communities in the Municipality of Puerto Morelos. Children of both communities were transported to the facilities of the Toh Reserve so that they could experience nature and see the amazing birds living in their natural habitats on the Toh Nature Preserve!

The workshop began the same way of the other activities described above and also involved marvelous participation from the children, who shared their personal experiences with the birds of their communities. The students also had the opportunity to take a birdwalk within the natural preserve. They were really excited to see the wild birds around them! During the birdwalk, they observed birds in their natural habitat and the children learned about the importance of environmental conservation to protect the birds. At the end of the walk, each child colored a bird in order to identify its physical characteristics such as the shape and color of their plumage, beak, and legs. Many students drew the bird that they loved the most on the walk!

The community of Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is the main port in the state of Quintana Roo and is located at the tip of the municipality with the same name, just across from Cuba. The workshop was attended by fourth, fifth and sixth-grade children of the morning shift of the David Alfaro Siqueiros elementary school. The students were transported to the Toh Nature Preserve to receive an entertaining and dynamic workshop on environmental education and birds.

The groups were welcomed and the organizers spoke about the purpose of the workshop. Then there was a walk in the Toh Nature Preserve for bird watching and enjoying the outdoors. During the walk, the children observed the birds in their habitat and noted the differences between the birds they observed. The workshop leaders explained to them the importance of environmental conservation for the preservation of the beautiful wild birds they have in the region.

At the end of the activities, students colored their favorite bird during the walk and a contest was held to randomly select 3 students, who won some prizes, such as bird posters, bracelets, book dividers, bird stickers, and more. The students were happy and felt empowered by the opportunity to join the efforts to conserve the birds of the region!

Photos are courtesy of the Toh Foundation. Webpage was developed by Ashley Calderon and Sanjna Das.

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