Bird Watching for Children Environmental Education Program!

How do you learn birds? One at a time! With your neighborhood bird blind, you may observe local birds easily
How do you learn birds? One at a time! With your neighborhood bird blind, you may observe local birds easily

How to get kids interested in nature?

Getting your kids interested in nature and having a good time outside is getting to be a big issue. The prevalence of videogames, online social networks and hundreds of channels of TV keep many people from exploring the outdoors during their young formative years!

I was very surprised when I first stumbled onto the Robbins Park in the Upper Dublin township. This well-kept park, hidden in between residential communities is an oasis of wildlife in otherwise well developed neighbourhood.

One of the first things that caught my eye was the bird blind. As a prolific videogamer and online person, this is the first time I've seen a bird blind and I was very impressed. It is really nice that kids in this neighborhood get exposed to such educational activities as bird watching, while in school.

Inside the little bird watching wooden shed is quiet and clean with wood chips on the floor to muffle noise. Outside the bird blind are 5 bird feeders and a bird bath.

Within minutes of sitting inside, the birds, initially disturbed by my presence, returned to the feeder. I haven't watched birds in many years and seeing these mulit-colored avians just a few feet away was pretty amazing. The handy poster on the wall helped me identify some of them, particularly the colorful Red Cardinal!


Bird Blinds for Education

This bird blind can hold up to 16 people for instruction and birdwatching. Birds are attracted to the feeders and water bowls
This bird blind can hold up to 16 people for instruction and birdwatching. Birds are attracted to the feeders and water bowls
Inside the bird blind is a bird identification guide which helps kids define what they see
Inside the bird blind is a bird identification guide which helps kids define what they see

Observing nature

I've been watching squirrels around my house, but they are very easily spooked, especially if you stand still a few feet from them. Still, they are fun to watch and it's very relaxing.

The interesting thing that happened during this bird watching session is that a family of 6 squirrels arrived and started to seek seeds on the ground by the bird feeders. They were so fun to watch!

A couple of male squirrels climbed on the bird feeders, displaying miracles of squirrel acrobatics. They are very good climbers, and apparently sunflower seeds really motivate them. A cool thing is that forest birds are not afraid of squirrels, and in fact are a lot more comfortable at approaching the feeders when squirrels are present.

I guess there's safety in numbers! The squirrels ignore the birds and rely on each other for awareness. Unlike some park squirrels that can be hand fed, these are still rather wild and are afraid of humans. 

Bird Watching turned Squirrel watching!

Inside view from the bird blind
Inside view from the bird blind
A family of squirrels is having lunch
A family of squirrels is having lunch
Most kids nowadays are familiar with the dramatic groundhog, but these squirrels are real!
Most kids nowadays are familiar with the dramatic groundhog, but these squirrels are real!
Maybe we can add lolcat captions later :)
Maybe we can add lolcat captions later :)

What can we learn from this initiative?

After talking to the Robbins Park management, I learned that they regularly hold environmental education classes for school kids in the park. Over 800 students are coming to the park every month to receive hands on education on various environmental topics.

I wish my high school in urban New Jersey did something like that!

Getting Kids involved

This avian wingspan drawing displays the wingspan of some birds. It is distinctly drawn with a kid's hand.
This avian wingspan drawing displays the wingspan of some birds. It is distinctly drawn with a kid's hand.

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