Bird sleuthing! An important part of the work of BirdsCaribbean (the region’s largest conservation NGO) is education. Not the “chalk and talk” kind of education, but hands-on, creative, experiential – and fun. Thousands of children – schools, youth groups and so on – have learned all about birds and the habitats they live in, thanks to a brilliant programme initiated by Cornell University and adapted for the Caribbean.
At the Natural History Museum of Jamaica’s World Wetlands Day event this year, “Bird Bingo” was a very popular game amongst young students. Moreover, teachers have also got involved in bird workshops. If you are in Jamaica and want to learn more about the programme, you can contact the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), who regularly conduct teacher training. All the materials are free and online so you can get started at any time with your youth group or class!
BirdSleuth Caribbean Program Connects Kids to Science and Nature
April 10th, 2019—Over the last five years, almost 50,000 people on 22 islands have learned new things about birds. They took part in BirdSleuth Caribbean, an innovative program that uses birds to teach science and conservation. The program was done by BirdsCaribbean and partners throughout the region.
“The goal of BirdSleuth Caribbean is to promote the protection of birds and nature,” explained BirdsCaribbean Executive Director Lisa Sorenson. “It’s easy to fall in love with birds. They are beautiful and they are all around us. That makes them a perfect tool for teaching science and conservation.”
At a training workshop in 2014, 27 people from all over the Caribbean learned the program and received kits of materials. Back home, they led teacher training for over 1,000 teachers. From Junior Rangers in the Grenadines to preschool teachers in Haiti and Montserrat, Caribbean citizens of all ages got involved. All the project materials are available in English, Spanish and French, and Creole and Dutch versions are under development; this is important for the long-term success of the program across all the islands.
Over two dozen activities are part of the BirdSleuth program. They include classroom lessons, games, and outdoor activities. Key elements include bird identification skills, citizen science activities, and inquiry-based learning. BirdSleuth can be taught as a series of ten lessons. Many activities also work well on their own.
The Caribbean curriculum – based on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth International program – has made an impact in school classrooms, summer camps, after-school science clubs, youth and community organizations. Fun activities like Bird Bingo and the Habitat Scavenger Hunt are popular at bird and wildlife events. The focus on Caribbean birds connects with kids, especially on islands where most teaching tools come from far away.
“In the past five years, we have realized that the study of our beautiful birds has sparked a new excitement and an interest in teaching – and learning – more about science and conservation,” Sorenson commented. Despite some challenges (including hurricanes, and fitting in with teachers’ busy schedules) there were many high points. The Petite Carenage wetland in Carriacou was declared a protected bird sanctuary and certified wildlife habitat was established in Grand Bahama.
BirdSleuth Caribbean was developed by BirdsCaribbean, with funding from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program is still active. To participate, find a trainer in your area, or download BirdSleuth materials for free, visit http://birdscaribbean.org.
BirdsCaribbean is a vibrant international network of members and partners committed to conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats. We raise awareness, promote sound science, and empower local partners to build a region where people appreciate, conserve and benefit from thriving bird populations and ecosystems. We are a non-profit (501 (c) 3) membership organization. More than 100,000 people participate in our programmes each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region. You can learn more about us, our work, and how to join at http://www.birdscaribbean.org.