Last spring, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department put on a wonderful program that reached out to two schools in the El Paso area. A total of 77 participants from Americas High school and their feeder school, Vista Del Sol, were involved in the very first “Celebrate Urban Birds!” event. The students arrived to Franklin Mountains State Park and spent the morning learning how to use the binoculars to identify birds, hiking, identifying bird calls, learning bird anatomy, and discussing the importance of citizen science!
Each high schooler was paired with a younger “buddy” for the day from the elementary school and served as a mentor. The high schoolers guided their buddies through a fun, hands-on activity that allowed the students to get creative back at the high school. They each received a planter to decorate and seeds to plant that would serve as food sources for birds and butterflies. The idea behind the activity was to teach about the importance of creating “green spaces” to provide habitats for birds and other wildlife in urban environments. The busy day ended with data collection as part of a citizen science activity, where students tallied the number of birds observed within a given area during a set time period.
Both the mentors and their buddies went home happy at the end of the day! One of the teachers, Neysa Hardin commented on the success of the event:
“Thank you to Cesar, Adrianna, and John at Franklin Mountains State Park. The students had an incredible day! My high school students said that this was one of their best experiences ever. Not only did they learn about our local urban birds, but they also enjoyed being mentors for the day! The elementary students told their librarian that they can’t wait to visit the park again with their high school buddies. We look forward to partnering up again! Thank you a million times for this unique experience.”
This tremendous event has had a great impact on both the participants and the surrounding community. Through this event, the students have been able to gain awareness and appreciation for birds and nature in their very own backyard. The high school students stepped up to their roles as mentors and really made an effort to be engaged and supportive throughout the activities. The relationships strengthened between the schools and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have also been incredible! By holding activities in both the high school and state park, a bridge between the “wild” and the “urban” was formed, making connections between both habitats.
A huge thank you to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for putting on a magnificent event!!