During our training in San Diego, we were introduced to many bird education activities including the Hokey Pokey-which was a fun way to bring our inner-child out. I was thrilled to end Day 1 of Spring Break at CARECEN with the game after an introduction to bird topography. It was surprising that most of the students had never heard of the game before and it was exciting to get them into it.
I’ve had experience in environmental education via a summer day camp at the Audubon Center in Debs Park in which we were outdoors about 95% of the time. However, this experience was a little different. The Central American Resource Center (also known as CARECEN) is by McArthur park, a couple miles away from Downtown Los Angeles. We’re not surrounded by thickets of coastal sage shrubs but by buildings, roads, and cars. CARECEN did have a backyard in which we (Natasha, Nikki, and I) used for some of our activities. In this Spring Break camp, we alternated stations in different bird activities by age group: group one had pre-k to 1st grade, group two had 2nd-4th grade, group three had 5th and 6th grade.
Day 1: What is a Bird? and Life Cycle
We used resources from the JR birder journal (resource found on birdday.org) to talk about bird topography. I drew a bird on the white board and labeled it’s parts using the students help. We labeled the wing, head, beak, back, breast, tail, vent, rump, tarsus, and tibia. After labeling the parts, I gathered the students in front of the board so they can use it as a reference for the Hokey Pokey game. The best part is that we completed this station in both English and Spanish. Most of them preferred spanish for the bird topography sheet but to get used to our friendly bird talk- I lead the station in both languages. And, some of the parents joined in learning the bird topography so I was excited to get them engaged, too.
Day 2: Migration
As a review from day one, we opened with the Hokey Pokey game. Then, we went on with our stations. I started mine with a story from Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children, called “How Turtle Flew South for the Winter”; a story about a turtle who wanted to fly with the birds but learned the hard way that migrating is not for him. With the younger kids, I had them act out some of the parts of the story to keep them more engaged. After I read the story with the older kids, I talked about bird refueling for migration using a resource from the US Fish and Wildlife Service called, Shorebirds-Migratory Superheroes .
Day 3: Taking Action to Help our Feathered Friends
We had less students today so instead of alternating stations, we went through all stations together. We began by talking about the problematic issue of plastic and we watched a kid-friendly video. Then, we talked about how we can reduce, reuse, and recycle at home. Then, we played a birds vs cats game. In this game, our birds had to fly South to Mexico from California during the winter to get their food. However, if they were tagged by cats (who stayed at one place), they also become cats and continued to tag birds. The point of the game is for students to understand the dangers the birds undergo while migrating. What actions can they take from this activity? Spreading the word on keeping Mr. Whiskers inside, of course!
After many rounds of cats vs birds, we discussed window collisions. After discussing, we students crafted silhouettes that we used to recreate the Environment of the Americas logo inside the CARECEN building.
Day 4: Birds in Culture
While some students were at Natasha Kerr’s station learning about the US and Mexico’s national bird, the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle, respectively, my students practiced using binoculars at my station. “We won’t see any birds” said a student of about 9 years old. “Well, if we step out quietly and keep our ears open, you’d be surprised how many birds will come to us” I assured all of the students. We stepped outside to CARECEN small backyard and sure enough we saw a House Sparrow, a Mockingbird, and a few humming birds. Some of the students flipped through the field guides to identify our city-friendly birds and were thrilled when we all identified them.
I enjoyed outreaching to this community on bird education and conservation. There are many problems that the community face like immigration, social inequities, gentrification, etc. But its also important to learn about the critters that we share the world with and that are ecologically and culturally important. This Spring Break camp is not the last of collaborating with the CARECEN group. We will engage in upcoming Earth Day events at the Audubon Center at Debs Park and Spring and Summer nature field trips. Many families that live in urban areas don’t get to spend much time in natural areas and I am beyond grateful to be involved in bridging this gap. I am looking forward to these bilingual field trips that could possibly deepen a family’s connection to nature!