It never ceases to amaze me how much a person can do with so little resources. Two weeks ago I traveled to Philomath to share the work of our Colombian partner, Eduardo Umaña Mendoza School in Usme, Colombia. The teacher worked with me on an extremely tight schedule to coordinate the visit and brainstorm an arts-and-crafts activity to do with her students. Upon agreeing to make paper-towel birds, she went out on her own volition to purchase fake feathers and plastic eyeballs and cut paper towel tubs of different sizes. Upon thanking her for this incredible initiative, the teacher told me that she felt it was profoundly important to inspire her children to admire nature and be curious about the world. In the visit, I got the opportunity to view other projects that she was working on with her students: hummingbird monitoring, bird gardening, wetland walks, and much more. As schools across the country undergo increasing pressure to meet standardized educational goals, it’s inspiring to see teachers who go above and beyond to integrate creativity, art, and science in their lessons.
The hosting classroom was a group that also welcomed the Shorebird Sisters School Program, a US Fish & Wildlife Service education program on shorebirds. The students spent the last semester learning all about the impressive migrations of their coastal friends, and have an affinity for nature. To express their love of birds, they replied to Nury’s video in interviews and with their papel-towel birds. One student, proud of his American Oystercatcher, eloquently expressed: “It’s cool to meet people half-way across the world that love birds just as much we do.”
This appreciation for nature is surely a reflection of the teacher’s leadership in the classroom and her welcoming disposition to extracurricular educational opportunities for the students. It is my hope that the exceptional efforts to connect children with nature, like those made by teachers like those of Eduardo Umaña Mendoza and Philomath Elementary, become more of the norm.