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More Tools or More Teachers?
by Paul J. Baicich

There isn't a month that passes that a new bird book or app does not appear. We are so lucky! We have books aplenty on all sorts of aspects of bird watching and nature study. You want a special book on seawatching, warblers, hawks, gulls, shorebirds, hawks, feeder-birds, or more?  You got it! We are also awash in apps. Best of all, they are inexpensive. And have you tried that fascinating "Merlin Bird Photo ID" from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology? It presents us with amazing photo-identification features that seemed inconceivable only five years ago.
And did I mention optics? We have good binoculars that can be bought for under $250. These are quality binoculars whose clarity was not available a generation ago for under $1,200. We are so lucky!
These are all tools. No, these are not hammers or wrenches, but they are objects we use to get a task accomplished. In this case it's identifying and enjoying birds, also providing us the information to help birds, whether in the backyard or across the hemisphere.
Could things be any better?
Perhaps, just perhaps, things could be much better.
Here's our problem as I see it: we have the tools... but we don't have the journeymen to teach the construction skills. (Sorry for the gender-biased journeymen, but I couldn't come up with a better word for this analogy!)
When our bird-watching and bird-education foremothers were leading in the efforts to imbue their students with a love of nature and of birds, theirs was the opposite problem. They had a small army of instructors many of whom had been virtually trained by their immediate predecessors in the earlier bird-protection movement - but they were lacking reliable materials, from books, to flyers, to optics. Nonetheless, they did very well, and we're the better for it.
Today, we have plenty of tools, but not enough teachers - instructors for children and instructors for adults - to assume a bird-education task in building a bird-literate society. The potential explanations for this contrast with the past were enumerated in a piece in I wrote the January issue of the BEN Bulletin but what is emphasized here is the oddity of having the tools today, but not having enough teachers.
Frankly, the public - young and old - cannot be expected to pick up bird study on their own, even with a remarkable supply of books and apps. It gets too frustrating without skilled mentors or teachers; it gets lonely without colleagues. What's more, field experience is not simply ID and interpretation, but ethical behavior and a value system that combines experience with sharing and with conservation. It's tough to learn those elements alone from a book, and I challenge anyone to show how that can be acquired from an app.
We have the tools. Now, how do we train dedicated instructors?

Audubon Camp Celebrates 80 Years! 
By Pete Salmansohn, National Audubon Society

Photo Credit: Stephen Kress

When adults hear the word "camp", they immediately associate that storied American place with happy children out on summer vacation along with their own long-ago memories of fun and new friends, learning to swim and canoe, and the thrill of spooky stories told at night in the glow of a campfire.  

The Audubon Camp in Maine, however, is a summer place largely for adults, and has been, remarkably so, since its founding. In 1936, Roger Tory Peterson was hired as an Ornithology Instructor for the teachers and youth leaders who came for two-week coastal ecology sessions to a lovely, spruce-covered  island, in Muscongus Bay.

In recent years, the Hog Island Audubon camp, which is now under the direction of Dr. Steve Kress, began to specialize in a wide variety of six-day birding and ornithology programs, from "Breaking into Birding" which introduces basic topics such as field identification, to "Hands-On Bird Science", a methods session teaching skills in bird-banding, study skin preparation, sound recording, etc.  Each session has nationally-known expert Instructors on-hand to share their knowledge and skills including Pete Dunne, Scott Weidensaul, Laura Erickson, and Dr. Frank Gill. There are exciting field trips to the restored Atlantic Puffin and tern colony nearby, as well as to many other habitats. 

Hog Island Camp will celebrate it's 80th anniversary this summer! Registration is open and scholarships are still available for the June session. Visit Hog Island's website to see why so many people return year after year to this beloved destination for birders. 

Photo Credit: Jon Reis
Education in Action
Photo Credits: Jo Fessett

Educators had a "wings-on" learning experience assisting with waterfowl research at the Stephen A. Forbes Biological Station on the Illinois River near Havana (IL) this month. Waterfowl Researcher, Heath Hagy, walked teachers through the process of placing transmitters on American Green -Winged Teal and Gadwall for one of the many research projects undertaken at the Station since 1894.  This training was organized by Illinois Audubon Staffer, Jo Fessett, and hosted by the Environmental Education Association of Illinois.
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-administered Bird Education Listserv
To learn more about us, read the BEN publication, "Toward a National Bird Education Strategy".

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