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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

Raising awareness & promoting sustainable use of natural resources

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The Caribbean BirdSleuth project, an initiative of BirdsCaribbean (formerly called the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds), aims to improve environmental stewardship by increasing knowledge of and interest in birds. The project seeks to provide educational resources for topics such as bird identification, diversity of bird species, habitats, and migration, and to encourage student participation in citizen science activities (bird monitoring and conservation). To benefit would be students in schools, summer camps, after-school clubs and other bird-related fora.

In partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, authors of the parent BirdSleuth programme, this version of the project would develop a Caribbean-specific curriculum and teaching materials, and train teachers from around the region who then implement the activities in their schools. This methodology would establish a local and regional network of conservation educators and teachers who are trained in the use of the curriculum.  

Representatives from 4 non-governmental organisations from Antigua/Barbuda (the Environmental Awareness Group), Jamaica and the Bahamas piloted the Caribbean BirdSleuth project. With support from the Ministry of Education, Andrea Otto, Joycelyn James and Kendra Thomas represented the EAG at the initial training workshop in the Bahamas. This training included bird identification, inquiry-based learning, and implementation of citizen science activities.

To share the knowledge and skills they acquired, these teachers then facilitated a workshop attended by representatives from each school zone in Antigua, the Ministry of Education and the Environment Division. Following the success of this workshop, a number of follow-up outdoor birding excursions were hosted by the EAG to provide further training for these teachers, as well as activities for birding enthusiasts. Since then, over 200 primary school students and 83 children from Camp GROW 2013 and 2014 have benefitted from activities in the Caribbean BirdSleuth curriculum.

Following the success of the Caribbean BirdSleuth pilot project, BirdsCaribbean has now extended the initiative to include over 16 Caribbean islands. The goal is to increase the size of the network of trained conservation educators and teachers. It is expected to reach more than 10,000 students in these countries in the first year.

By connecting children with birds in their local habitats, especially in protected areas and threatened habitats, we believe this will improve their knowledge and foster in them a passion to protect biodiversity.

Caribbean BirdSleuth Project

Local Teachers in Caribbean BirdSleuth Training Workshop

By Joycelyn James and Kendra Thomas

Two primary school and one secondary school teacher recently participated in a Caribbean Birdsleuth International Training Workshop in the Bahamas from November 29th –December 1st 2012.

Andrea Otto, Joycelyn James and Kendra Thomas represented the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) at the workshop which was hosted by the Bahamas National Trust in Nassau, New Providence Island.

Twenty-one other participants from Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas were trained during this very interactive workshop. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Lisa Sorenson and Ann Sutton of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) and Jennifer Fee of Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The objective of the workshop was to create and equip educators for a special Caribbean Birdsleuth curriculum that is currently being developed. Cornell Lab of Ornithology originally developed Birdsleuth as a series of kits for middle school students in the United States, as a meaningful and fun way to connect young people to nature through the study of birds.

The EAG, through its connection and involvement in the conservation of birds and other wildlife, was invited to provide feedback on the usefulness and relevance of the curriculum to Caribbean schools. Miss James and Miss Thomas along with other Science educators were asked to review parts of that Birdsleuth Curriculum and provide feedback. The workshop then served as a follow-up as to how the curriculum could be implemented and incorporated into schools and youth clubs in the Caribbean.

The three days of the workshop was very interactive and packed with fun teaching and learning activities. Participants were divided into groups and were assigned the tasks of presenting various aspects of the curriculum to their peers. The creative execution of the lessons has been noted for further inclusion in the updated Birdsleuth Curriculum.

Participants were also engaged in a number of outdoor field activities, including the use of binoculars to identify birds, treasure hunts and obstacle courses featuring hindrances to bird migration. The most engaging outdoor session, however, was the observation of birds at two different bird watching sites on New Providence and Paradise Islands, as well as the collection of bird count data which was shared on the eBird website.

The participants from Antigua are expected to train their colleagues in the implementation of the curriculum. Although the Birdsleuth Curriculum may not be adopted wholly into the National science Curriculum, there are areas where it can be incorporated. Grades three to six cover relevant topics, for example, the identification of vertebrates and invertebrates which includes themes such as birds, endangered species in general, habitats, ecosystems and conservation. Lessons from the Birdsleuth Curriculum can be adapted to help teach these topics.

It is hoped that the exposure to the Birdsleuth Curriculum will sensitise teachers, students and society at large to the issues surrounding not only  the conservation of birds but of our environment on a whole and bring about meaningful, workable solutions to the problems  that we face  in conservation of our environment. The formation of school bird watching clubs with the aim of creating “Citizen Scientists” by encouraging young people to observe, collect and publish data on birds is also a desirable outcome of the Birdsleuth Curriculum.

Teachers participating in an outdoor workshop at the Christian Valley Birding Trail. Photo courtesy of Andrea Otto.

Educators learning to use binoculars at workshop at the GARD Centre

Camp GROW 2014 campers at McKinnon's Pond. Photo courtesy of Andrea Otto.