Students at the Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy in the Bronx, NY participated in a program in collaboration with the Rocking the Boat organization where they built and installed wooden boxes for tree swallows in Soundview Park. Rocking the Boat is a Hunts Point organization that holds nature programs and provides lessons for young adults on building boats. Chrissy Word, the director of Rocking the Boat, collaborated with a Cornell ornithology student in developing the bird house building activity. The group of students from Satellite Academy installed the wooden nest boxes along the Bronx River. These teenagers now have a new appreciation for nature after seeing numerous tree swallows enjoying their new homes. One student, Brandon Bermeo, 19, says, “Birds are part of nature… When you see a bird you can feel part of nature, too. You can get away from city life.”
DNR student Lilly Briggs, in collaboration with her advisor Dr. Marianne Krasny and Dr. Nancy Trautmann, Director of Education at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, has undertaken a Land Grant Fellowship project this fall to support both youth development and bird conservation in New York State. She hopes to blend the ecological, social, and educational goals of citizen science and civic ecology by giving youth an opportunity to study birds and participate in bird-focused citizen science initiatives such as eBird (www.ebird.org), as well as engage them in bird-related civic ecology projects (http://civicecology.org/). To achieve these goals, she is using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “BirdSleuth” curriculum (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth) to teach youth about bird identification and the significance of citizen science, and is then going beyond the curriculum by helping to facilitate civic ecology activities that can specifically benefit birds, such as tree-planting, bird-box building, invasive species removal, and more.
Thanks to fellow student Alex Kudryavtsev, Lilly has connected with an organization called Rocking the Boat. Based in the South Bronx, Rocking the Boat (RTB) “uses boats to help young people challenged by severe economic, educational, and social disadvantage develop into empowered and responsible adults” (www.rockingtheboat.org/about/). She has been to RTB twice this fall to teach students about bird identification and entering data into eBird, and will go again in December to help them build tree swallow boxes. Lilly has also met with the afterschool coordinators of Jefferson County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and due to their interest in and enthusiasm for her project she has scheduled a return visit in February to facilitate a BirdSleuth/Civic Ecology training workshop for approximately 20 educators.
Lilly would like to thank the College of Agriculture and Life Science for the Land Grant Fellowship funding that has enabled her to pursue this initiative, as well as Marianne and Nancy for all of their guidance and support in conceptualizing and realizing the project.