Bird by Bird" Program in IdahoHow do we interest kids in the outdoors, teach them creatively, and impart a love of nature? And how do we encourage observational skills, improve attention spans, and encourage social interaction in youth? We teach them birding!"Bird by Bird" is an exciting program for schools. Birding can provide a foundation for life-long observation skills, as well as heightened awareness of and appreciation for nature. Birding also can have a very positive impact on physical, emotional and mental health. Sponsored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Partners in Flight, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Watchable Wildlife Program, Audubon Society's Golden Eagle Chapter, and Wild Birds Unlimited, this group of committed partners have developed a unique and very successful school birding program in Idaho's Treasure Valley. How does the program work?• Schools must apply for admission to the program. • Usually, one classroom per school participates.• Admission is dependent upon funding, school commitment and teacher innovation. • Participation is required for one full school year (September through June). • Participating schools are loaned bird feeding equipment (tube and ground feeders), optics (spotting scope, tripod and binoculars), a bird bath, perches, bird seed, and a great collection of bird books. • Wild Birds Unlimited Boise (5 Mile and Overland Rd), the program's business partner, provides the seed, feeders and optics at a significant discount as their way of encouraging youth to engage in birding. • Participating schools are also given native plants and trees to enhance bird habitat on school grounds, and help with native plant education for outdoor classroom areas. • "Bird by Bird" facilitators provide biological assistance, equipment training, field trips and monthly classroom visits. What is required of participating "Bird by Bird" schools?• School principals approve participation.• An area for bird observation and feeding at the school must be available. • Teachers must attend an orientation at the beginning of the school year and a close-out/equipment return at the end of the year.• The primary care-takers of the birds are students, who feed and water the birds, and also care for the equipment.• Schools use "Flying Wild" program curriculum for classroom projects. • Schools are responsible for all equipment and books.• Students observe, collect and record data (on-site data collecting, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Project Feeder Watch," or e-Bird) and other bird counts to help understand and track birds, their migrations, and behavior. • Teachers and students design and implement their own unique program at their school. • High schools students add a mentoring component to their requirement, devote time as a community service contribution, or do an advanced-level project, study, internship, presentation or paper. • Teachers record observations about student behavior throughout the year: attention span, social interaction, observation skills, physical activity, independent thought, creativity and teamwork. • All teachers and students are required to submit reports at the end of year.
"Bird by Bird" opens many students' eyes to the wonder of birds, which hopefully is a life-long lesson. Mountain View High School Teacher Daisey Horner says it best: "The one hope I have for my students is that now they will be more observant when they are at the park, ball game, or in a parking lot. It is just like the saying about planting seeds and waiting for them to grow. Maybe some day down the line, a student will say, "Look there's a American Goldfinch!"For more information, contact:Meggan Laxalt Mackey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 208-378-5796Deniz Aygen, Idaho Department of Fish and Game/Idaho Watchable Wildlife Program, 208-287-2750Larry Ridenhour, Bureau of Land Management, 208-334-3334.Student Comments"I never did like birds, but till I saw how cool it is to watch them, I started to love learning about birds all the time. I read books about birds at school now. It was fun to learn about birds. Thanks for giving us the things to learn about them."Ayely Guzman"I learned so much about birds! I even did research online and from books about birds. I never knew they were so interesting until you taught us. Now, I look for birds almost every day. When I'm not doing my chores or I have nothing to do, I'm looking for birds."HayleeL'Huillier