Connecting People With [la] Naturaleza

To continue with a common theme in my recent posts, I’d like to share the perspective of another individual. Hey–I only have so many jokes to muse you with, so I brought in some reinforcements: Meagan, the fantabulous U.S. Wildlife Service Education Program Coordinator. She made my outreach dreams come true. I thought it may be interesting for you to hear from a partner on the initiatives coordinated by EFTA Interns and all of the amazing, capable professionals and institutions we cross paths with.

This is a reflection of our time working together on administering programs for the Connecting People With Nature Grant. This is an award we received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop initiatives that would leverage partnerships to engage local audiences with national wildlife refuges and outdoor recreation sites. We completed this mission by organizing “tri-lingual” (Spanish, English, and Spanglish) off-site education visits to a summer school program, a science career panel, kayak tours for Spanish-speaking audiences and members of low-income housing units, and in organizing the various IMBD events on the coast. The scene opens on the second bilingual kayak tour we hosted in the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a beautiful estuarine habitat full of birds, animals, plants, and magic:

After our first round of bilingual paddle tours, we were ready to take on the 2nd tour. Lucila and I learned specifics from our tour in July like: make sure you have a sturdy paddler in the front of your canoe-otherwise the person steering in the back will have to do twice as much work! Children have a lot more fun paddling in double kayaks with their parents, than sitting stagnant in canoes. In English “loose hips save ships” is a fun phrase, but bicultural people would rather demonstrate this understanding by showing you their “Shakira!” in the kayak. With a little experience, the second bilingual tour was a breeze.

Luckily, we had two helpful volunteers to support us with safety, and a bilingual observer with experience leading kayak trips. The group synthesized very well, and spirits were high. This could also have correlated with ideal weather conditions, but I would rather attribute it to the group.

The attendees of this tour were all from the Salem Albany area, or the Willamette Valley. My efforts with the camps in the area proved to be fruitful after finding out where people reserving the spots were coming from. It was a beautiful night, with sightings of beaver-Oregon’s State Mammal-and peeps! These peeps were Least Sandpiper, always a pleasure to have returning visitors. One thing this whole group had in common: a connection to a distant land. No participants were from an area close to the kayaking site, but we all traveled there to share this experience with the other animals stopping over in the estuary.

This theme carried on tour our lessons at the Taft 21st Century Summer Camp. After teaching this diverse group of students about birds and pollinators, we combined the material to demonstrate how birds and pollinators are important in many cultures. Introducing migratory birds in their schoolyard, we led students on a journey to the over-wintering grounds of the Common Yellowthroat in Chiapas Mexico. Students were able to see how a year in the life of a Common Yellowthroat ranged from the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, to the tropical rainforests of Mexico. The students had fun learning how to dance Merengue with movements imitating migratory bird behavior, making bracelets with colors coordinated to different countries’ bird bands,  dressing a student up to identify adaptations birds use to migrate, and walking the school grounds to find as many migrating birds as possible. By Lesson 3, we adapted to keeping activities interesting for such a wide age group, and the students learned that when we walked in the room, it’s bird time!

The summer camp with Taft was my last program with Lucila, and it was a blast. We were able to combine our creative minds, sharing our passion of connecting students with the outdoors. This summer has been full of collaboration, and what a fascinating journey. We met all kinds of community members, learned so much from people living here, and were able to spark an interest in conservation with those we worked with. Thanks to this grant, we have memories learning how to rescue kayakers on a cloudy June morning, successfully fording a river with new kayakers in July, and dancing Merengue in a rubber room pretending to be Warblers, Whimbrels, and Hummingbirds in August. Best. Summer. Ever.

Build-a-Bird: in this activity the students learn the adaptations of a migratory shorebird by flipping cue cards and reading each card. The card directs for a student, a willing victim, to be dressed up as a shorebird!

Build-a-Bird: in this activity the students learn the adaptations of a migratory shorebird by flipping cue cards and reading each card. The card directs for a student, a willing victim, to be dressed up as a shorebird!

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Build-a-Bird: Our willing victim in full-gear and ready for his migration to the wintering grounds! This game comes from the US Fish & Wildlife Service Shorebird Sister Schools Program and was adapted for use in our summer programs.

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Band yourself! In this activity, students select a country on a map that represents the official color bands for migratory shorebirds. They then get strings with the corresponding color, make a bracelet, and get “banded” as shorebirds landing in the corresponding country. We asked students to look at a National Geographic poster to see what kinds of migratory birds fly through the country they selected, which Flyway that bird migrates on, and where else that bird may be found along the Flyway. This is a fun game adapted from an activity developed during my time with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center 2013 IMBD Festival. It connects the cultural practice of making colorful threaded bracelets, an art form found in many Latin American countries, with the scientific concepts of shorebird migrations and bird banding.

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