Bird Conservation Through Education TM

October 1, 2013 

In This Issue
The Color of Nature
Adult Bird Education
Focus on Diversity Podcast
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

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The Color of Nature: 

Putting Ideas into Action 

by Dan Kunkle, Lehigh Gap Nature Center 

The third Focus on Diversity: Changing the Face of American Birding conference is right around the corner to be held in McAllen, Texas in early November. I have been at the first two and am very much looking forward to this year's conference in McAllen.


When I attended the first Focus on Diversity (FOD) conference at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia in October 2011, I set myself a goal. After a day of inspiring speakers, panels, and discussion groups, we were asked to develop an Action Plan--how we were going to focus on diversity in the coming year. My action plan that day was to begin an outreach program to the Latino community in the small cities about 15 miles south of our Lehigh Gap Nature Center in eastern Pennsylvania.


I realized that instead of doing programs for the Latino community in Allentown, we needed to build the capacity within the Latino community to operate programs for themselves. We wanted to train a group of bilingual Latinos of all ages in birds and other aspects of natural history, and also train them to plan and lead programs in their own community. Not only would this help us reach out to Latinos in Allentown with the intent of connecting them to nature through birds, but we would also be building leadership capacity that would spill over into other aspects of community life. And we were providing limited part-time employment to a number of members of this community at a time when the recession was causing great economic pain.


Fortunately, we found funding for the initiative from a local philanthropist and have since received a second grant to help run the program. We recruited five leaders and began the training in August 2012. As time went on, two of those leaders left the program but we recruited several more, mostly students from the Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown. Three of these students have become the mainstays of our program so far.


By April, we were ready for our first programs. The leaders conducted 8 bird walks in April and May with varying degrees of success. Our biggest success was a bird walk with 25 participants, Latinos of all ages! I was there at that program and you should have seen the pleasantly surprised looks on the faces of the predominantly white park users when they saw one white and 25 brown faces peering into the trees through binoculars. In August, our crew began leading walks at a nearby state park which attracts a largely Latino crowd every weekend. By the way, we never had a title for our initiative until our own leaders came up with one--"The Color of Nature."


We have had some difficulties along the way. Our leaders are pretty good with leading nature walks and know their birds, trees, etc. But they could be better at marketing the programs. We'll work on that next when we find additional funding. The program is a long way from being self-sustaining and an unqualified success, but we have had a solid start. We are launching a nature club at Roberto Clemente, a grade 6-12 charter school, this fall to groom our future program leaders. In addition, one of the leaders is really interested in gardening with native plants, so we have successfully sought funding for an urban garden project that she is leading.


The Action Plan I wrote back in 2011 is being implemented but has a long way to go. We have had some losses along the way, but we have also branched out into unanticipated directions. And perhaps the most important thing that has happened to me personally with this initiative is that I have half a dozen new friends--people whom I never would have met had we not pursued our Focus on Diversity project. 

The Appeal of Adult Bird Education:

Boomers and More 

by Paul J. Baicich   


Photo by Daniel Schwen
Yes, youth is a main concern for many bird educators, but this is a short piece on the appeal and importance of adult bird education. Not simply adults, however--this piece is a look at the generation known as Baby Boomers.For our purposes, the Boomers, that generation born between 1946 and 1964, deserve a very close look. It's a huge cohort, numbering over 77 million Americans, and although it is not uniform, it is certainly distinct in a number of ways for us to consider.
Many Boomers often seek to recapture the outdoor discoveries they experienced in their own youth, experiences they often had to put on hold while building families and crafting careers. 
The youngest of Boomers, now at about the age of 50, may be starting to experience a complete "empty nest," with the last of their children out of college and on their own. They and their immediate elders are often at a prime time for volunteering. But surveys indicate that they are less likely to simply "volunteer" in a traditional sense, but seek "quality," "purpose," and "giving back" with increasing frequency. This is an opportunity we bird educators cannot afford to miss.
The chances to introduce them--or re-introduce them--to these opportunities include Master Naturalists, park or refuge Friends, Nature Center docents, even Elderhostel (now Road-scholar) participation.

Twice a year, Destination Analysts, a marketing and research company based in San Francisco, releases a short summary of their most recent findings. In July, their most recent "State of the American Traveler" came out in which they compared some generational travel traits and preferences. Destination Analysts examined differences between three key generations: Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.

The figures from the latest "The State of the American Traveler" indicate that Baby Boomers show a real tendency for exploring and also for connecting with the great outdoors on leisure trips. This group rated highest on their "Explorer Index," showing an openness to off-the-beaten-path attractions. Their "Back to Nature Meter" also rated the highest, at 66 percent. (Not surprisingly, Boomers are the least uncomfortable group when out of touch with email or text messaging.)

If a large portion of the Boomers is seeking to recapture some aspect of nature interest from their youth, that's important. And many already have outdoor interests--or at least curiosity--that stand in stark contrast to those of young children today. Bird educators need to capitalize on this opening.


Focus on Diversity Podcast 


BlogTalkRadio recently featured the Focus on Diversity Conference series on the VoicesAcrossEE show. Host Flisa Stevenson interviewed conference organizer Dave Magpiong about the history of the conference as well as details of the upcoming event in McAllen, Texas, on November 4th-6th. 


The podcast can be enjoyed in entirety here.


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