Bird Safe Guelph has developed a curriculum for elementary school aged children so teachers can implement it into their classes, and it’s all about two-winged flying creatures.
“A lot of Bird Safe Guelph’s main activities are focused on generating public awareness and trying to get the public involved in Canadian conservation,” said Alex Hare, course designer of the Bird Safe Guelph School Programs.
The program is free and accessible online in English, French, and later on, Spanish too. There is curriculum for three cohorts, Kindergarten to Grade 2, Grade 3 and Grade 4 and Grade 5 and Grade 6.
Hare consulted with teachers to get a better understanding of what they would do with the course content and they said they would want to implement the Bird Safe School Program into their everyday curriculum. Adding it would also be helpful if someone who is passionate about birds could come and present to students.
For Guelph schools there are in-person presentations available by volunteers and teachers can get in contact with Bird Safe Guelph through email to set it up.
“This is kind of trying to bring that public attention towards kids in school,” said Hare. “One way to get people really onboard with conservation and appreciation of nature is trying [to] foster that at an early age.”
Hare said he didn't know many people at a young age who didn’t like nature or animals. In the youngest cohort the curriculum talks about what birds are, and that they are technically dinosaurs.
“I’m 31 and that is still so cool.”
In the later year cohorts, the curriculum calls for conversations around real-world conservation challenges birds face, like window collisions, artificial lights at night and un-ironically birds' biggest threat – cats.
Some estimates in North America are that over a billion birds per year are killed by domestic cats, said Hare.
Education and awareness are part of how to mitigate the risk to birds from cats.
“You can take your cat out on a leash. Try to keep them inside, keep them stimulated inside. They’re pretty happy and they actually live longer when they stay indoors,” said Hare.
The program points to other resources like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which has an app called Merlin that allows people to use their phone to capture audio of birds and input colours of birds to help identify them.
Bird Safe Guelph made a bird bingo game where teachers can take their students outside and find birds in Guelph in both the winter and summer months.
“I really hope it fosters an appreciation for the natural world around them. As a biologist that’s always been really important to me. That’s why I got into what I do because I love nature,” said Hare.
He also hopes it lets children see what they can do to help wildlife.