Birding at OSU Hispanic 4-H Camp

Students unite at amphitheater to hear Mario's story as an undocumented farmer (camp coordinator)

Students unite at amphitheater to hear Mario’s story as an undocumented farmer (camp coordinator)

I was joyful to bring an “Introducing Skills of Bird-Watching” workshop to the Oregon State University 4-H International Camp. This camp brought  113 Hispanic youth together from all Oregon, grades 6th to 8th  and focused on connecting them to natural resource careers, encouraged higher education and engaged students in healthy physical activities. The camp also provided leadership by engaging Hispanic high school teens as counselors.

In the four workshops of 75 minutes long, students learned how to use binoculars and field guides and engaged in  bird walk.  We discussed bird-watching as a hobby and for science tying in different jobs relating bird conservation and education. Additionally we discussed how skills in bird-watching apply to other field jobs relating other wildlife.  Prior to the walk, students closed their eyes and remained quite for three minutes to attune their ears to the forest sounds and connect to them it.  During the walk we practiced ways of monitoring animals by the doing point counts and transect line counts.  In some of the workshops we did ethograms, an inventory of behaviors, that allows kids to pay close attention to the bird’s behaviors. Along this walk we observed cedar waxwings, chipping sparrows, bushtits,  piliated woodpeckers, american goldfinches, warblers,  ravens, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, jays, robins, and many more! The kids were excited to see these birds and learn about them during our walk. For most of them it was the first time doing something like this and they were very excited anytime they discovered a new bird.

Students after a successful bird walk

Students after a successful bird walk

This camp was an amazing experience since from the moment I walked in, people spoke Spanish and English, randomly switching from one to another mesh. This, unlike in other places where it may be taboo or an embarrassment for not knowing one language or the other perfectly, was welcomed! It was great to be in an atmosphere where Spanglish was fully acceptable, it made kids be more open and fully express themselves. Staff members were also Hispanic and each of us shared our story to inspire kids to continue school, get good grades, and feel proud of our background. Students shared Mexican folklore dance, stories, and chistes with each other over a bong fire that really brought everyone together at the end of each day.

Students raise the American flag and pledge together  both in English and Spanish every morning.

Students raise the American flag and pledge together both in English and Spanish every morning.

This opportunity is truly unique for everyone who attended the camp. Other workshops involved plants and soil, robot engineering, animal tracking, stream sampling, reading, learning about leave no trace, art, making smoothies, zumba, and much more. After lunch, they would engage in canoeing, swimming, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and a challenge course.  Many students, who were there under scholarships, described the camp as their best summer experience. I would say that this camp is life changing to many and brings them a lot of opportunities by exposing them to new things. Several counselors were once camper themselves that enjoyed the experience so much they wanted to come back.

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