Shore People Advancing Readiness for Knowledge (SPARK) is a nature-based family learning program on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that brings families out to the varied habitats on the shore, exploring and learning about woodlands, fields, marshes, farmland, backyards, and beaches on Family Learning/Family Fun Days. They have published nine books featuring SPARK kids outdoors and have their own curriculum program.
Early in March, seventeen SPARK families participated in a Family Learning/Family Fun (FLFF) day at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Wildlife Refuge. Here SPARK director Grace Cormons with her husband Matt showed families the “Celebrate Urban Birds” slideshow, and then everyone got to learn from the bird exhibits in the visitors’ center and walk the trails to observe birds in the fields and marsh with Park Ranger Jennie Lewis. Families with children 7 and older were encouraged to participate on their own in the CUBs bird observation program and record their observations.
Later in March, another FLFF day took place at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge for those interested in entering the Chincoteague Merchants’ Association Migratory Bird Drawing Contest. Matt Cormons, local artist and ornithologist, gave a bird drawing lesson followed by a bird walk at the refuge.
One of the SPARK Junior Leaders, sixth-grader Alejandra Plitt, wrote an essay about her trip to Assateague Island:
Going to Assateague Island on March 31st, 2012 was so interesting! It was so much fun actually learning the names to some of the beautiful birds you see every day. For example, we all learned about Mourning Doves and that you could probably find them hanging out in your bird bath! I mean, whenever I saw one I would just have said, “Hey look at that Pigeon!” What I also didn’t know was that they are very similar to Pigeons but not quite the same thing.
My SPARK friends and I also learned about one of my favorite bird species… the Bald Eagle! We found out that their nests can be 3ft long by 3ft wide!!!! And we actually got to see TWO eagles flying in the sky!! They are definitely by far one of the most amazing birds I’ve learned about!!
Have you ever seen ducks swimming in a lake and wondered what they were called? Well we got to see Mallard ducks!!! They are very beautiful birds. The males and females were almost always together… kind of like a duck couple!! But one strange thing was that the males were a different color than the females!! The females are brown and with little brown splotches, and then the males are rather colorful!! They are black, blue, green, and white!!!
I am so glad I got the chance to learn about some of our beautiful everyday birds!!!