Saturday, October 3, 2009

P2F Week #3 - 7 seeds = (

Wow! This was an incredibly busy week at school and home. Unforuntately, I did not do a good job of recording P2F interaction. I do believe it was much more than 5 but I can not recall any other specifics.

Sept. 21 - 7 seeds:

1. It was a real pleasure to Phil this morning for the first time this year. He is very nice gentleman that has worked as a substitute in our building for more than 10 years. The first words out of his mouth were, "Hey Dave, I was thinking of you this weekend."

He went on to share his experience at the Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ with his grandchildren. We talked about the various species for several minutes. He vowed to take them back there.

2. Over the weekend, Lori e-mailed our magazine sale fundraiser. She was looking to subscribe to a bird magazine but was not sure which one would be most appealing to her. I replied with a summary of each of the 3 major periodicals - BirdWatcher's Digest, WildBird, and Birder's World. I also promised to bring examples of each with me to school on Monday.

I dropped of a handful of magazines to her classroom this morning. To my delight, she brought the magazines with her to lunch. A good portion of our lunch conversation focused on these bird magazines = )

After an almost embarrassing week, my Pledge to Fledge count inched up from 443 to a grand total of 450 seeds planted so far this year.

P2F Week #2 - 355 Birding Seeds Planted

Sept 14 - 171 seeds: Today was a busy Pledge to Fledge Day = )
1. Students were passing a stuffed (plush NOT taxidermy!) animal around the room as they took turns answering various questions. When we first started the activity in each class, I asked what type of animal they were passing to each other. Without fail, most of the students provided a choral response of "PENGUIN!" To their shock, they were all wrong.
I graciously explained that the bird in question was actually an Atlantic Puffin. To my delight, this proclamation was not made by me in two of my classes as a few students pridefully shared the bird's true identity with their peers. I briefly compared and contrasted puffins and penguins for all 140 kids.

2. After a particularly interested exchange about current events, I blurted to one of the classes "you guys are almost as cool as vultures!" As you can imagine, they looked at me as though I was crazy.
I took a few moments to explain the valuable role that vultures play in our environment and their disgusting practices of thermo-regulation. This was met with chuckles, oh-wow's, and looks of horror from the 28 different faces in the room.

3. Sports practice affords many chances for bird observations. Tonight's soccer practice provided terrific looks at 3 Common Nighthawks flying northbound(?) over the fields. Needless to say, I politely punctuated our small talk with 3 other parents top point out these cool birds going right over their heads. Our next 5 minutes were spent chatting about nighthawks and birds in general.

Sept 15 - 1 seed: I spent about 10 minutes discussing hummingbirds and their feeder disputes with a fellow teacher at my school. Lori is not a birder (yet!) but she does have quite a love of hummingbirds. She has hummer posters around her classroom = )

Sept 16 - 140 seeds:
One of the questions on today's assignment dealt with the Yucatan Peninsula. I could NOT pass up this P2F opportunity as we reviewed the material.
Upon first mention of our southern neighbor's geographic feature, I shared the Yucatan's role in spring migration. The specifics of the discussion was a bit different from class to class but including concepts of neotropical species, nocturnal migration, and fall-outs on the Gulf Coast of the southeastern US.
I was very pleased to have flocks of students asking me questions about this after class!
Sept 17 - 27 seeds: My class is adorned with many bird images and artifacts. This includes some stuffed waterfowl, decoys, posters, and a shelf devoted to bird books. Near the end of a class today, I had a student ask me if the "big duck" was real. I explained that the bird was real but wasn't a duck.
I opened the ID up to the class. Many knew that it was a goose of some sort. Once the ID of Canada Goose was revealed, the expected question of "don't they just live in Canada?" was mulled over by the class in the moments prior to class dismissal.
Sept 18 - 29 seeds:After a full week of school, this one class was realizing that they were surrounded by a bird decor in my room. They started pointed out the calendar, binoculars, carvings, and posters. They were told to keep an eye out as new items are often replaced by different bird-relics throughout the year.

After week #2, my Pledge to Fledge stands at 443 birding seeds dropped. I'm curious how long it will be before they start to germinate?!

P2F Week #1 - 88 Birding Seeds Planted

Each weekly Pledge to Fledge reflection will include highlights and the running total. These first few installments are a backlog from throughout September. Unfortunately, I did not jot down all bird-related interaction = (

Sept. 8th - 10 seeds
: Our first day back to school was filled with faculty meetings. WHat a fun and exciting day. Not surprisingly, I had several teachers coming up to me about recent bird sightings and asking for either identification help or some other info on their newly discovered feathered friends. As they shared their stories, I gladly extended the conversations beyond simple ID and into distribution, related species, and conservatrion issues. These exchanges included:
- Rich's Red-tailed Hawk sightings with his daughter -
- the Turkey Vulture in Tim's neighborhood
- Jen's daughter growing love of Blue-footed Boobies which led to us talking about our more local Northern Gannets.

Sept. 11th - 78 seeds: My first full day with students was bittersweet. Most of our discussion focused on the events of this day in 2001. There were some profound and insightful perspective shared by the young minds in my room.
Following a decidedly solemn class discussion, I was asked a similar question in 3 of my classes today - "Do you like birds?"
Apparently my bird-nerd reputation precedes me as these incoming students already knew of my avian appreciation. I fielded the questions my introducing them to the terms "birding" and "birder".

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Pledge to Fledge

I would like to encourage fellow birders to make a "Pledge to Fledge"!

What is a "Pledge to Fledge"? This is basically a personal resolution to actively, frequently, and patiently share with others the beauty and wonder of birds thereby inspiring their own appreciation of birds.

I challenge you to make such a commitment to reach out to non-birders and start opening their eyes to the birds around them. Scoping shorebirds at the beach? Approach a beach-walker and tell them to check it out. Walking through a park on a Saturday morning? Share the Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, or whatever with any one that passes by. Offer them a glimpse through your binoculars! These little acts start to chip away at the wall of ignorance that separates most people from not just birds but the natural world in general.

This year, my own personal pledge is to plant at least 10,000 "birding seeds" by the end of school on June 20, 2010. Each seed shall consist of a discreet and explicit bird-centric interaction with a current non-birder. Furthermore, I will do my best to post at least weekly updates of my pledge along with highlights featuring cute, funny, or poignant anecdotes.

Why a "Pledge to Fledge"? By sowing such birding seeds, we are chipping away at the barriers that exists between most people and the world of birds. We may not create the next uber-birder but we WILL building a general awareness of birds which is a critical first step in promoting a societal bird conservation ethic!

On behalf of our birds, please consider making your own Pledge to Fledge = )

In the context of my pledge, a discreet interaction shall be each separate discussion with an individual. Some examples would include:

- pointing out a passing flock of birds to a friend will count as 1 seed,

- celebrating a new life bird with a class of 25 students counts as 25 seeds as each student will have learned something new about birds,

- chatting with 5 coworkers at lunch about the hummingbird that Lori had on her feeder would count as 1 seed,

- HOWEVER if the above conversation results in each coworker chirping in with their own backyards sightings, this would be 5 seeds,

- bringing a friend along on a birding excursion would count as 1 seed yet bringing his wife and two kids along would be a total of 4 seeds!

In the context of my pledge, an explicit conversation shall be both proactive and direct in nature. Some examples of an explicit seed would be:

- wearing a t-shirt from a terrific birding destination AND discussing the rich bird diversity of that area with someone,

- having a bird calendar on my chalkboard and inviting/entertaining questions about the particular species with a coworker,

- inviting a complete stranger/passerby to sneak a peek at plovers and peeps on the beach through my scope.

For my personal pledge, the following would not constitute a "bird seed" being planted:

- wearing a t-shirt from your fave birding hot spot without any further explanation or interaction,

- decorating my class with bird artifacts but NOT explaining any of them to the students.

While I look forward to sharing my progress with you, I'm also eager to hear about your own birding interactions!

Schoolyard Birding Challenge

The Schoolyard Birding Challenge is a monthly birding "contest" for all public, private, and homeschools in North America. The basic premise is that teachers or parent chaperones take the students on walks around their school to find, observe, identify, and record the various bird species. At the end of the month, each group will submit an electronic sightings submission form.

The school with the mosty net species for the month will receive severla birding-related prizes. There is also a random drawing of all participatin schools for additional prizes.

Learn more about our Schoolyard Birding Challenge at

Working the Web

My most daunting Fledging Birders related project has probably been two complete overhauls of our website in the past year. While there are many pages to check out, there will be much more content added over the next few months including more bird-infused lesson plans for teacher and more information about the benefits of birding for children.

The latest incarnation can be found at

If you would like to help get more kids out birding, PLEASE send the following link to any and all teachers you know:

Bird Education Conference in Jekyll Island, Georgia

Yes, it's been a crazy busy year or so for Fledging Birders. My highlight reel would, without a doubt, include many scenes from the "Bird Conservation Through Education: A National Gathering" hosted by the Council for Environmental Education and BEN on Jekyll Island, Georgia back in February.

In the duldrums of the recession, more than 110 bird educators from 30 states and several countries descended upon this jewel of the Georgia coast to exchange effective strategies and new ideas in bird education.

Read more about this highly successful event in the BEN Bulletin at