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Contact BEN Editor, Sarah Livesay
Engaging Young Birders...through Books
by Sarah Livesay, Council for Environmental Education 
This year, Common Core State Standards put reading front and center with emphasis on both literature and informational text standards in the K-12 classroom. Informational reading includes content-rich nonfiction in history/social studies, sciences, technical studies, and the arts. This includes biographies, technical text, books, charts and reference materials. While "literature" falls under the traditional fictional works,stories, drama, poetry,(Common Core State Standards).

For literature applications last summer, we conducted a bird-themed research project in our household with the trend of scientifically-accurate fiction. Our selections included a grouping of titles from the newly emerging genre of eco-fiction. My middle school field-testers, (for which I also provide room and board on a daily basis), were enthralled with Flash Point by Sneed B. Collard (2006). In the story, rural Montana teenage protagonist, Luther Wright, struggles to make sense of the ongoing dispute in his logging community between economics, science and forest management practices. As the wildfires blaze on just miles from his home, Luther finds respite in a new job at the local wildlife rehabilitation center where he befriends a variety of birds of prey and develops his own connections between the environment and those that depend on these resources. 

Next on the list was a heavy read which could be argued for either the biography and/or creative non-fiction genre, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose (2014). A true historical 200-year account of the life, threats, decline and eventual (possible) extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Rich storytelling intertwines the natural and cultural history surrounding the bird with detailed accounts from a host of characters that have played roles in the conservation attempts (or demise) of the bird.

Currently, we are quenching our now peaked curiosity for the elusive 'Lord God Bird" with real-world reading applications, thanks to an amazing reading opportunity this month provided by Audubon website. Just weeks ago, on April 11, a small team of ornithologists, writers and photographers began an expedition in Cuba with high hopes to confirm the finding of the legendary icon. Since their arrival, team member Tim Gallagher has published daily journal entries in a series entitled, Chasing the Ivory-Bill, to the website. Tim's blog entries blend scientific details of the Ivory-bill natural history with rich storytelling aspects of heartache, guided hope and new leads which emerge throughout the journey. While the scientifically-accurate informational text label could apply, the storytelling aspects could cause an English teacher to argue this as literature (creative non-fiction), either way, it is a "hit" in our nest. This real-life, real-time birding adventure read, along with the content foundation laid through Hoose's earlier read, have opened the gates to birding for a couple of new birder recruits, in my own birdhouse. 

Happy Summer Reading!
'Tis the Season for Bird Cams 

Photo Credit: Ken Miracle
Technology has caught up with birding this season, in a big way. Live video feeds from across the world are now available documenting nests, rookeries, feeding stations and every other basic stomping ground for a host of species. The opportunity to watch live while a Sage Grouse dances on a lek in Oregon or hold your breath as the newest eaglet hatches in New York, is now at your fingertips. 

Live web feeds can go a long way towards student engagement in the classroom. While traditional field experiences cannot be dismissed, live web opportunities can still offer a myriad of data collection, journaling and observation skills as students have daily access to mating, nesting, hatching and fledging behavior, as they happen. 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains one of the most comprehensive live bird cam collections with over 15 different species available for viewing. These cameras catch birds in the act of everyday life including nesting areas and feeding stations from all across the United States. The Nature Conservancy's Live Lek Cam, featuring the booming and footwork of the Sage Grouse, allows the viewer to watch the fog lift as the sun emerges over the activity is already underway on the grassland. Only available from 5-9 am PST, viewers can log-in to watch the courtship, as if part of the covey yourself. 
Education in Action
Photo Credit: Stacy L. Iwanicki

Being situated on the Illinois - Wisconsin border, with Lake Michigan only a glance to the east, Volo Bog State Natural Area (IL) understands the importance of bird education. Since 2009, Natural Resources Coordinator, Stacey Iwanicki, has hosted an International Migratory Bird Festival inviting children and adults to "migrate" among the over 20 Flying WILD activity stations. Participants have their passport stamped for each activity completed, in an attempt to achieve the coveted Audubon plush bird - earned with 14 stamps on their passports!

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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Newsletter Maintained by:
Council for Environmental Education  | Flying WILD  |  BEN Committee