The Shack Neighborhood House provides an inclusive, fun and safe environment for learning and recreation in Pursglove, WV. The group is always looking for new and creative ways to engage their participants, and bird-watching is a new experience for most of their members and staff, so they combined the arts, gardening and local bird-watching into one fun-filled event that turned out to be a great way to begin the spring season!
Another of their goals is to encourage young people in the community to appreciate and interact with their outdoor environment in a new way, and The Shack Neighborhood House partnered with the Audubon Society and local Master Gardening program to help do this on the 20th of April, 2013, in an Earth Day celebration.
The Shack’s elementary age after-school program was responsible for growing starter plants, and additional plants, bird feeders and bird baths which were set up before the event. The Junior Volunteers (middle-school and high school age) were responsible for learning and eventually presenting the 16 focal birds and birds indigenous to the area. They created posters and signage to display in the garden. The goal was for young people to take ownership of the program and be the primary educators during the event.
In The Shack’s playground and garden area, all 120 program participants (families and young people), community members, local leaders, and partnering agencies ended up celebrating being outside and learning more about the nature and creatures around them. During two bird observation sessions, families and kids learned how to watch and identify birds they had seen through the help of CUBs materials and a local Audubon Society expert. The Shack also invited a member of the local wildlife rehabilitation force to bring a live falcon for the kids, which was a great teaching tool!
Other attractions at the event were various booths with fun and educational activities for kids, including a game where they sorted recyclable materials, a composting game, seedling- and flower-planting, and healthy snacks. Two scientists from West Virginia University came to showcase examples of exotic bugs (and not only dead specimens!) and different stages of rock formation. Also, local artist Eddie Spaghetti hosted a booth with a great collection of crafts material for kids to create bird-themed art to take home.
Jenna Lohnes, one of the event organizers, wrote us:
“I was delighted by how interested our young people were to do the bird observation. Even toddlers as young as 2 and 3 were really excited to try and find birds and quietly waited for them.” She also mentioned that the week after the event, The Shack had a guest speaker come talk about career choices at the after-school program. Jenna writes that, “He asked our kids what they wanted to do when they group up expecting the typical ‘athlete, doctor, fireman’ answers (the speaker was a former WVU football player) and was surprised when several of our elementary aged kids who attended the Earth Day celebration quickly answered: ‘entomologist’ and ‘ornithologist’.” We couldn’t ask for a more inspiring response to the amazing work by The Shack Neighborhood House! To learn more about the group, check out their website!