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Educator Tools & Resources


Below are a series of highlights from the BirdEd Listserv. To subscribe, send e-mail to birdedlist-join@lists.flyingwild.org. In the text of the message, include your name, organization, title, mailing address, phone number, fax number and website (if applicable).



EPA Video makes case for Protecting Urban Wetlands for experiencing Nature (December 2008)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has produced a 12- minute video, “Wetlands and Wonder: Reconnecting Children with Nearby Nature,” that makes a passionate case for protecting urban wetlands as places to experience nature. The film focuses on urban and suburban wetlands as valuable resources to be restored, protected and enjoyed. Pockets of remaining wetlands in developed areas often provide immediate and easy access to nature. Yet these wetlands may be threatened or degraded, and often go unnoticed. The video was produced by Darcy Campbell of EPA, Gene Reetz, a former EPA wetlands expert, and Colorado-based ECOS Communications. The video features interviews with Julia McCarthy, Joan Almon, Richard Louv, and Robert Michael Pyle.

For additional copies of the DVD, contact the National Service Center for Environmental Publications at 800-490-9198 or visit  http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/education/wetlandsvideo/ to view the video online.


The Fledging Birders program encourages you to take your students birding! (April 2009)
Start their morning (and yours!) off on the right track with a refreshing bird walk around the campus. Or, help them unwind after a busy day by birding after school. Either way, the Schoolyard Birding Challenge (www.fledgingbirders.org/challenge.html) can help promote excitement for your bird outings through a bit of friendly competition for schools nationwide. It's totally FREE and you can win prizes for your class!

~ Kim Check


New Bird Game- the Conspiracy of Ravens (July 2009)

Are there any bird education programs that focus on Children (July 2009)
The Flying WILD program, www.flyingwild.org, is just such a program--bird education as a vehicle for involving youth in environmental learning and stewardship. In addition to numerous activities about bird conservation, habitat, biology, cultural connections and stewardship, many formal and nonformal educators involved in Flying WILD work with students to conduct educational bird festivals.   To learn about upcoming Flying WILD educator and facilitator (trainer) workshops, you will want to contact the Flying WILD City Partners in those areas.  ~ Marc LeFebre

Join your local Audubon group. Each chapter has an education committee where you could volunteer. We started a Junior Audubon program this year for young children. It has gone great. There are lots of resources on the internet. I've had Flying Wild training and I use some of the activities. birdday.org has Jr. Birder activity booklets for different age groups. www.audubon.org has education resources including Audubon Adventures for students 3 - 6th grade. There is also a list of chapters in each state on that web page, so you can find a group close by. ~ Cherie Baudrand, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society

Also see - http://www.fledgingbirders.org/index.html


Where can find educational/information posters that relate to the concept of biodiversity that was put forward by Douglas Talamy in "Bringing Nature Home" (August 2009)
Check out the posters at Good Nature Publishing http://www.goodnaturepublishing.com.  They have many beautiful posters that focus on such topics as backyard habitats/rain gardens, hedgerows and low impact living.  They are currently working one called "Love Your Stream" with a focus on promoting clean water practices in your backyard which should be ready for distribution in about a month.

~Becky Barker, Woodland Park Zoo

See - www.clearwaterconservancy.org

Download Audubon At Home posters:

Healthy Yard: http://www.audubonathome.org/yard

Healthy Apartment: http://www.audubonathome.org/apartment/index.html
Healthy Country Home: http://www.audubonathome.org/countryhome/index.html
Healthy Schoolyard: http://www.audubonathome.org/schoolyard/index.html
Healthy Neighborhood: http://www.audubonathome.org/neighborhood/index.html

Christmas Bird Count for Kids (October 2009)

Every year for over a century “Christmas Bird Counts” (CBC's) have been run across America during the holiday season. Young kids with their families are often not included with this important 24 hour rigorous “citizen science” effort...so we created the Audubon CBC for Kids... and families...using some of the important basic ingredients of this grand old tradition. The objective is to have fun and potentially create a “farm team” of birders and conservationists for the future of birding and encourage families to enjoy nature together. It only takes 2 teams to get started! It is a wonderfully simple, healthy, holiday celebration for almost any school, youth group, Audubon chapter, nature center, wildlife refuge or local community organization. Click here for more information.

Bird games for festivals (March 2010)

I thought folks might be interested in a game I developed for use at festivals and such.  I put this together last year and used it a couple of different events -- it was very successful!   I wanted something related to bird education in which kids of all ages could participate. It does not require reading, so can be used with children as young as 3, all the way up to adults.   I also wanted something that could accommodate many kids -- at an event like Earth Day we might get several hundred kids through the booth!   This activity is great for an indoor or outdoor space, a small space or a large one.  Even people that are not going to play will stop and just look at the pictures -- and possibly ask questions or talk about birds -- which is an added bonus!   The basic premise is that the participant studies a close up picture of a bird (and of course I featured Louisiana birds) and then tries to pick that bird out of a lineup of 3 birds that have very similar characteristics.  In a larger space, this can be done with binoculars or scopes so that it approximates bird identification in real life -- looking at  bird in the distance and then figuring out which bird that is in a field guide.  Participants are coached, so no one walks away a loser, and prizes are given to all participants. If interested in the file email - japatter@cox.net. ~ Jane Patterson, Baton Rouge Audubon Society.

- I too have an activity similar to this but I use a simple identification sheet which has 15 pictures or so of the birds (front and back) on it for the person to find the match - like you said, this works especially well when you are working with young children and those who can't read. I laminate the bird id sheet and use clipboards to hold the sheet. One frontside on a clipboard and one backside on a clip board or I let them flip the sheets over. I use bird pictures (laminated bird pictures that I taped onto metal envelope openers which are pushed into the ground) and/or the Audubon plush singing toys as the "bird in the field" that they have to find a match to identify.

For those who can read, I give them a clip board and a field sheet that has questions on it. The questions are specific for each of the bird pictures that I have staked out along a trail or by the booth. The participants look the bird up in a field guide to find the answers. Questions such as where is the winter range of the bird? Does this bird stay year-round in Mississippi? Is this bird larger or smaller than a robin? What family group of birds does the bird pictured belong to? Name another bird that has a tuft of feathers on top of its head? I use this activity for teaching beginners how to identify birds, practice using binoculars, and to get them used to using a field guide. I've used the activity at teacher workshops, for class programs, at nature camps and I will use it this summer for my own youth birding camp. ~ Terri Jacobson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

- If there are Piping Plovers in your area, you might be interested in the PiPl Resource package at delawareaudubon.org  A musical composition, featuring the song of the PIPl, can be downloaded. ~ Ann Rydgren, Delaware Audubon

Does anyone do workshops for the boy scout badge? (March 2010)

"While most of the requirements are not a problem, #5 -- "Observe and identify at least 20 species of wild birds" seems like quite a task.  I'm trying to find a way to do this workshop as a one-day event and I'm not sure that trying to squeeze in 20 birds is realistic, or a good way for them to learn.  The obvious solution is a bird hike, but I'm not sure that would yield 20 birds. 

- Better to do a workshop on how to ID birds and then take the scouts out initially, then take them out again a few times over a few weeks to actually see the full 20 birds.  You wouldn’t have to be the leader on all the bird walks. Their scout leaders could take them birding if they participated in the training you offered, or the scouts could individually join regular birding groups through Audubon or nature center outings or a local club.  They could keep a cumulative check list on all the bird walks to show that they have earned the badge.  I don’t think people remember as much if they are taught everything at one time and then don’t practice using their new skill a few times after the initial training.  ~ Susan Gilcrest

- It's not really difficult.. at almost any season. Visiting a bird feeder, a pond, a woodland, and a grassy field should easily yield the required 20 species. ~ Paul Baicich

-I do two 4 hour classes. Basic agenda for first 2 hours is to cover items 1-5 in a classroom setting. This is done with a powerpoint and an intro to binoculars and field guides and basic bird ID using photographs. Then we go for a bird walk on campus for at least an hour. I provide binoculars and field guides and we use both on the walk. As we walk, we talk about bird songs and I'll ask repeatedly about the songs we hear as we go to reinforce them. Of course, we also discuss habitat and food sources and migration, etc etc.

When we return to the classroom, we discuss the checklist and then have a short bird song quiz. An important note: because of the short amount of time available, I do not try to tackle Requirement #8 at the same time -- instead we set it as a prerequisite of the class and they have to bring "proof" that they have accomplished one of the tasks in #8 on their own prior to the class. They generally bring pictures of what they've made and I'll ask them a question or two about it.

Some lessons learned from my experiences: 1) Have one scout be the field guide carrier and another be the list keeper. If everyone has binoculars, field guides, a checklist and a pencil, it's too much to hold on to and manage. I also found that if each kid had their own list they were more worried about checking off birds on the list rather than actually looking at birds. Share the list when you return to the classroom so that everyone has one to take with them. 2) This year instead of just writing down the birds we found, I created an illustrated checklist that had a picture of the birds we were most likely to encounter and next to it, a place to check if we saw it, a place to note what it was doing or eating, and a place to note if it's a migrant or yr round resident. I added space at the end for "write-ins". Since the kids are usually not bird watchers, this gives them a way to ID the bird without me having to just tell them what it is. For birds that are not on list, I ask them to tell me everything they see and then we look it up in the field guide. Using an illustrated checklist also gives the kids a "mini field guide" to take home with them. 3) Use technology -- it impressed them! I bought my the iPod Touch last year just so that I'd have the iBird application to use with the scouts. 4) A group of over 6 or 7 scouts is about max I can manage on my own -- they tend to wander and get distracted. Arrange to have 1 adult for every 6 or so kids. ~ Jane Patterson, Baton Rouge Audubon Society

- Taking the scouts out to the right place(s) is the key. You want a diversity of habitat types and a place that has different edge habitats (where different habitats meet). Wetland habitats including ponds and streams are great places to find birds. Time of the year (season) will help you determine where to go. And lastly, time of the day is important. For the best bird activity, one has to be out in the morning and then late afternoon into the evening. With spring migration fixing to start (or has started in the South), you should be able to pick up 20 birds with an early morning hike through some nice birdy habitats. Part of finding the birds in forested habitats though is listening to their calls and songs too.

A merit badge doesn't have to happen all in one day. Our roles as providers of environmental education is to plant the seeds, get them excited to learn, lay the basic ground work by providing the information, teaching how to and leading activities where lessons are learned, skills are developed and practiced. The scouts need to be able to do some of the work on their own too. We don't want to "spoon-feed" nature or their badge requirements to them. I realize that some scout leaders want us to provide everything in one package but we don't have to. Getting them close to meeting the requirements is fine. In the spirit of scouting it is best for the youngsters to do some of the badge work on their own initiative and desire. ~ Terri Jacobson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



Has anyone had birding experience in the field with an iPod Touch either leading tours or doing research? (December 2008)

 - You can use the internet if there's access to wireless to access all kinds of cool life software, and to report species to eBird. The screen is about the best you're going to find right now for showing pictures and videos (and those take up memory!)--and screen size really is important if you're using this as a teaching tool. As great as it is to play songs and show photos, showing videos is even better, and the iPod touch is superb for this.
~ Posted by Laura Erickson

- An example on youtube shows how the iTouch is being used by one ornithologist/guide Raphael Sobaniain the field. Easy to imagine from this how it could also be used to bring media into an interpretive experience by enhancing what is observed and recording information.

There are other multimedia storage devices that can be applied to birding. I have a Epson P-2000 (Multimedia Storage Viewer with a 3.8 inch display) that I have used for a couple of years with picture and sound files. It has been very handy for playing calls and showing pictures/videos when the birds just won't cooperate. Or they do and you want to show a picture of the nest, highlight an element of their habitat, natural history, interactions with other species and so on.
~ Ralph Jarvis


- I got an IPod last year also use BirdJam. I teach a bird course for educators and have found it to be very helpful. I can attach a speaker and play songs, I can study songs on the plane en route to a location to study up on the birds, and I can use it in the field. It beats tape recorders, searching for the correct species, etc.

~ Sue Bonfield

- There are two superb options for incorporating the iPod into birding – BirdJam and the iBird Explorer.  I have reviewed both on my blog:  BirdJam (iPod including Touch): http://www.bornagainbirdwatcher.com/2008/05/young-birders-be-jammin.html; Winged Explorer / iBird Explorer (iPod Touch and iPhone): http://www.bornagainbirdwatcher.com/2008/12/twelve-days-of-christmas-day-six-winged.html

~ John Riutta

- I have an old iPod with BirdJam and use it mostly for verifying what I hear in the field during Breeding Bird Atlas work, but I have brought it along with birding groups in places where playback is prohibited and simply put an earbud up to each person’s ear so they can hear what we are searching for. It gives them an audible search image without playback through speakers that could surely be heard by the birds (as well as be in violation of area laws). In fact, I use my earbuds much more frequently than my iMainGo speakers. While this might be prohibitive for a group larger than 8 or 10 (max size for good birding anyway), I find it an incredible tool that has really enhanced my birding and those I bird with.

            I used to try to draw little graphic representations of unknown songs (similar to sonograms) in my field notebook and then listen to CDs when I got back to my truck or home to my computer, but the iPod is instant gratification, as well as being more reliable for song-matching. There have been some dialect discrepancies between the Stokes CDs that BirdJam uses, but I can usually nail it down to one or two choices and then listen to other CDs I have loaded onto the iPod, or head home where I have other resources. Just like I have more than one field guide for comparison, more than one audio source is also advised for some species. I sure wish I had one through many years of point counts in the late 1990s and early part of this decade, as well as for spot-mapping SW willow flycatchers and Grenada Doves with cassette players and speakers. I’m saving up for the iTouch myself!

~ Chip Clouse

Are the green or red laser pointers safe to use for guiding field trips and pointing out birds?

- I've been on many trips where leaders have used these. I don't know how strong--others can speak to that. They make pointing out birds VERY easy, both for the leader and the participants.

~Laura Erickson

- I’m not sure there is a “safe” (“eye safe,” yes, but even then care is required) laser; the important thing using one is simply to use it in a safe manner.  I use a battery-powered green laser (better daylight visibility) purchased from One Good Tern (www.onegoodtern.com). I try to use it sparingly – only in cases when no other point of reference method will effectively serve to point out the location of the bird or other creature of interest) and to never shine it directly on the bird itself but on an area just below or just above the bird. This prevents a direct shine into the eye which could indeed cause harm.

~John Riutta

From a total cost effective "user friendly" package of hardware and software, does any one have a critique of the “iBird” vs. “birdJam” or other product?
- I have invented a software program that you can download images of birds and their song to a PDA (Palm OS) or cell phone. This allows the user to make up their own field guide to the region they are visiting or live in. The CD is called Danw Chorus I and right now it is for eastern birds. We will be contacting iBird for potential patent infringement as their software does the same but for ipods.For more information visit www.enviroquestltd.ca.  ~ Sherrene Kevan



New Report: Birds of Conservation Concern (March 2008)

The U.S. Fish  and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Bird Management has just released “Birds of Conservation Concern 2008” identifying species, subspecies, and populations of migratory and non-migratory birds most in need of additional conservation actions.  The report can be found at http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/reports/BCC2008/BCC2008m.pdf.

Scientists to Investigate Impacts of Wind Energy on Migratory Wildlife (August 2009)

Thirty top wildlife scientists have announced agreement on some of the highest research priorities to help America’s rapidly growing wind energy industry produce much-needed alternative energy—while also providing safe passage for birds and bats.


Coverage on the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp (October 2009)




- (March 2009) A link to the Bald Eagle cam at Blackwater NWR in Maryland. It's an avian version of "Truman" -the chick's development is documented with a still pic every 30 seconds.~ David Magpiong

- (March 2009) For those interested in sandhill cranes, Gary Ivey with the International Crane Foundation, put satellite transmitters on 10 lesser sandhill cranes in Homer, Alaska last summer. You can follow the movement of 9 of those cranes as they make their way back to Alaska this spring. Unfortunately one of the cranes did not complete its journey south this past fall. ~ Michelle Michaud




Attract Bird to Your Yard (April 2009)


Resource for talks on Bird Friendly Coffee (May 2009)
"Birds of Two Worlds: Saving Songbirds With Your Coffee Cup,"  has been prepared by Bridget Stutchbury, who is author of the 2007 book, "Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World's Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them." Bridget has conducted research on birds for many years, focusing on the behavioral ecology and conservation of temperate and tropical species.

Bridget was enlisted by Bill Wilson of Birds and Beans Coffee (www.birdsandbeans.com) to prepare this presentation so that we would at last have something that anyone could use when they are asked by some group to "give a talk on birds." Others involved in the review and revision of this presentation in addition to me were Kenn Kaufman, Scott Weidensaul, Russ Greenberg, and Robert Rice.

You can download a copy of the presentation to share as you like. Click here to download.

Documentary, Birdsong & Coffee: A Wake Up Call (December 2009)

Coffee drinkers will be astonished to learn that they hold in their hands the fate of farm families, farming communities, and entire ecosystems in coffee-growing regions like Costa Rica. In this film we hear from experts and students, from coffee lovers and bird lovers, and-most importantly-from coffee farmers themselves. We learn how their lives and ours are inextricably linked, economically and environmentally.

Why can't a bird feeder be a gateway to habitat conservation (July 2009)
Having worked in the birding and bird feeding industry since 1997, I have seen time and again someone start with a small feeder  and then one day notice a bird that they have never seen before.

They want that bird back and then you explain to them about native plantings, ponds, etc. In a few years, they are going gangbusters to get their yard certified as wildlife habitat.
You can do the same with hummingbird feeders. People always wonder why they have only one hummingbird take over a feeder in an urban area, but when they go to rural areas, there are dozens sharing a feeder--that's the opportunity to talk about the pesticide use in urban areas and the number of small insects hummingbirds eat.

Many people respond by seeing the birds at the feeder first as opposed to just walk looking at plants and birds. We can do both, habitat education and bird feeding. We don't have to do just one or the other, we can do both, we can work together and use responsible bird feeding as a tool. ~ Sharon Stiteler

Teaching kids about the effectiveness of healthy habitats (July 2009)

There is a more effective way to connect kids to birds and other wildlife than putting out food that may or may not help.  Get them outdoors and teach them about the effectiveness of healthy habitats.  Our organization brings in many elementary students for habitat-based field trips focused on birds.  On these field trips we stress that the most important food for birds is insects.  Insects are essential for the survival of many species (swifts, swallows, warblers, flycatchers, and others) and they are crucial to nestlings.

Increasing numbers of Americans have been offering seeds, suet and nectar over the past four or five decades, during a time that has seen dramatic losses in our migratory bird populations.  Josh has enumerated the reasons:  more cowbirds, more subsidized predators, more deer destroying habitat.  We should add to that -- too few insects.

Insect biomass is at the base of the food web.  That biomass is supported by native plants and only native plants.  If we demonstrate how a native plants garden benefits birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife then we have done our jobs.  If we teach them to put up bird feeders, they may think they have done their job in helping birds.

We'll never get kids on board with conservation unless we need to teach conservation.  We'll never do it teaching them how to offer supplemental food. ~ Kay Charter,
Saving Birds Thru Habitat

Why can't a bird feeder be a gateway to habitat conservation (September 2009)
The American Birding Association is now offering a new forum for you to share information about your organization—in the well-known and well-read Birding magazine.  http://aba.org/birding/v41n5p20.pdf

Bird Education and Climate (October 2009)
There are so many ways that the climate issue touches on birdlife and its future. And there are some solid and practical ways that we can educate the facts and advocate actions that might alleviate the problem for birds (and for humans, of course!)
One such way is through the CO2-light-glass-building connection. In short it's an Enhanced Lights Out Effort (my own awkward words, for the time being).

We have a great bird-education opportunity, and those U.S. cities already involved at one level or another of formal bird-compatible planning  (e.g., Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, St. Louis, Boston, and New York, for starters) should be discussing how to make a modest light out effort into a meaningful campaign to lower CO2, lower the lights, and lower bird mortality. ~ Paul Baicich

Laura Erickson's useful book "101 Ways to Help Birds" can help each of us make a difference in the lives of our local birds. The true power of the book, however, could be realized if every birder/bird educator acted upon Mrs. Erickson's advice. ~ Dave Magpiong

ideas for building bird boxes (February 2010)
Tips on just the kind of construction that all thoughtful bird educators might consider when building bird boxes/houses: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u08oJJh5SKk