Bird Conservation Through Education TM

March 2, 2015 

In This Issue
Pledge to Fledge & GBBC
Bird Feeding as Transitional Experience
Rules for the Black Birdwatcher
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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

by Dan Kunkle

A seed was planted by Kenn and Kim Kaufman at the Bird Education Network Conference at Jekyll Island,Georgia in February 2009. I was there as part of my Audubon and Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, in which diversity was a major emphasis. That seed was watered and fertilized by the first Focus on Diversity: Changing the Face of American Birding conference at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia in October 2011. That is where I wrote my action plan for what has evolved into the Color of Nature program of Lehigh Gap Nature Center in eastern Pennsylvania.


We began by training members of the Latino community in the nearby city of Allentown, Pennsylvania to lead bilingual bird and nature walks in Allentown's excellent park system. They also led programs at a nearby state park that attracts thousands of Spanish speaking visitors on summer weekends. These leaders selected the name Color of Nature - people enjoying birds and other aspects of nature should be varied in color as nature is.


Last summer, there were two new advances with the program. Our leaders teamed with staff from another local conservation group to lead summer programs in Allentown's parks. This was the first time ever that brown-faced children could look up to brown-faced leaders teaching them about nature and conservation in the park system's summer program. The second big innovation was our Conservation Leadership Academy - an intensive weeklong day camp for young Latinos and Blacks in grades 7-12. Ten young people including two of our leaders spent the week with a naturalist from a local state park and me exploring birds, butterflies, ecology, conservation and careers. The young people enjoyed the week so much, we began a club at their school (Roberto Clemente Middle/High School) last autumn and have been running an after school nature program weekly at the school.


Recently, a businessman-philanthropist from Allentown contacted me and offered to fund a program for members of Allentown's black community. We settled on a series of two-day mini-camps for students and adults from this community in the summer of 2015. We will also hold Conservation Leadership Academy II and will host three of our leaders in two-week residential internships at our own nature center this summer, integrating them in to our program leadership. They will also continue leading bilingual bird and nature walks for families and work with kids in the parks during the summer.


While we had to overcome some difficulties along the way, the program has evolved over the past three years. The network of partners is expanding - we are now working with several philanthropists and foundations, Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, the Hispanic American Organization, and several schools.


Our approach was never to provide programs for these communities but to build the leadership capacity to do their own programs and to pay the leaders for their work. We are a long way from spreading the message throughout all communities of color in our region, but we have our foot in the door and are making some progress. We encourage others to make similar efforts to be inclusive in your areas. The future of our birds and of conservation will be much brighter if we have conservation champions that are as colorful as nature.


Feeding Wild Birds in America  

Book Review by Dave Magpiong


Later this month, Texas A&M University Press will release Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson. This impressive 306-page volume provides bird educators with not just historical insights into the development of bird feeding but also its role in conservation and outreach throughout the last century and a half.  Feeding Wild Birds also gives readers best practices for bird feeding based on recent and comprehensive studies.  


As alluded to in the book's dedication to "our bird-protection foremothers," Feeding Wild Birds' chronological narration of the grandest bird feeding story ever told highlights the significance of women like Clara F. Berry, Florence Merriam Bailey, Elizabeth Davenport, and Mary Thatcher as they laid the foundation for bird education in the late 1800's. The story continues on, decade-by-decade, as the authors explore the evolution of bird feeding through their command of the topic and their careful selection of vintage images to more vividly tell the complete and compelling story. With each chapter, readers can witness the influence major cultural and historic trends have had on how we view the birds closest to us and even how Americans have come to value the natural world.


Of course, many things have changed in the last 130 years or so but the "oh yeah" moments are often when we see how certain experiences have been shared by bird feeding enthusiasts for generations, like battles with House Sparrows and squirrels!


Throughout its journey, Feeding Wild Birds in America shows the power that carefully considered backyard buffets and habitats can wield in terms of connecting people to birds and nature.  In the authors' own words "bird feeding can also be appreciated as a way to bring people to birds." 


Rules for the Black Birdwatcher


Last Friday, the folks at BirdNote released a video titled "Rules for the Black Birdwatcher" on their Facebook page. The 2-minute segment, featuring Dr. J. Drew Lanham of Clemson University, is entertaining while also sharing several profound points on the issue of diversity in birding. With over 25,000 views in under 48 hours (which is viral for the birding community), the BirdNote team was inspired to also post the video on YouTube and their own website, so people beyond Facebook could readily view this important piece.


Much of what's on the video was originally written by Lanham in an article  he did in 2013 in Orion Magazine.


The BEN Bulletin editorial team encourages you to watch and share "Rules for the Black Birdwatcher".


The impact of the video has become evident in various online forums, as people are publicly asking "What can I do to help promote diversity in birding?"


The following link is a video compilation of some key lessons from the first Focus on Diversity conference at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in October 2011. These are considerations and tips that can help you start reaching out to new audiences.


Stay tuned to the BEN LIstserv as we will be sharing more tips and strategies for engaging new people in the coming days and weeks with the list. If you are not already on the Bird Education Network Listserv, it's easy to join. Simply send an e-mail which includes your name, organization, title, mailing address, phone number, and website (if applicable) in the body of your email. 


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