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Europe and Central Asia

School's out(side) for Spring!

By Shaun Hurrell, 30 Jun 2016
School children in Hungary learn all about House Martins and bird migration after watching them nest with Spring Alive. Photo © Liz Dale, flickr
School children in Hungary learn all about House Martins and bird migration after watching them nest with Spring Alive. Photo © Liz Dale, flickr

A bell in Hungary rings the start of a noisy week day. Like in many schools, the grounds fill with happy laughter, the bouncing of balls, children running and playing. But this spring a new noise rang through the air of the Ady Endre Primary in Gyál: the chirrrps and tseeps of House Martins on their arrival from Africa. Rather than distracting from studies, the children go outside in their lessons to see what it’s all about! They say there are at least 10 nests under the eaves of the school building, not too far from each other.

Art teacher Ms Viktória Szabó says: “The House Martins have kept busy ever since they arrived, lately by feeding their chicks. We’ve tried taking photos of them but it’s not an easy task because they fly really fast!”

Viktória is sharing her enthusiasm for nature with her classes through the Spring Alive programme, which this year has encouraged children to celebrate the return of Barn Swallows and other migratory birds to their neighbourhoods.

Spring Alive is a BirdLife International educational conservation initiative organised by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) that encourages children to take action for the conservation of the migratory birds they learn about. Intimately associated with humans, swallows and martins are a species that anyone, almost anywhere can help with.

The 30 pupils of Viktória’s class have learnt loads about swallows and martins. Through music, literature, writing, and environmental studies, Class 3/a now know about their migration, nesting and feeding habits.

“They've looked at pictures, listened to presentations, and created drawings and photographs for the Spring Alive competitions of the small colony living on the school grounds,” says Viktória.

One of the House Martin nests © Viktória Szabó

One of the House Martin nests © Viktória Szabó

They’ve become ‘House Martin Scientists’ and monitored the stages of nest building and chick development, using the material on the Spring Alive website and going outside to see the birds.

Despite all the noises of the school, it is clear the House Martins are not disturbed. Instead, these local birds are perhaps these children’s first window into nature conservation, or even an understanding that the birds they are seeing are shared with other children in Africa.

As the European season of Spring Alive comes to a close, the project will move with the migratory birds into Africa, where the Spring Twin initiative will unite schools between the continents.

10 reasons for your child to celebrate spring with Spring Alive

“Recognising the arrival of migratory birds also brings a broader understanding of nature,” says Karolina Kalinowska, Spring Alive coordinator. “Some bird migrations are so huge, they are almost beyond comprehension. For local children, Spring Alive brings an opportunity to think globally.”

Thinking back to when you were at school – wasn’t it great to go outside and explore? Thanks to Spring Alive these lucky children in Hungary got to do it as part of their lessons!


Spring Alive is an international campaign to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is organised by OTOP, the BirdLife Partner in Poland, on behalf of the BirdLife Partnership. Wildlife groups, teachers and others who would like to become more involved in Spring Alive should contact the International Manager, Karolina Kalinowska, at karolina.kalinowska@otop.org.pl

For more information go to: www.springalive.net

Follow Spring Alive on facebookYouTube and flickr.


Spring Alive project would not be possible without the great support of The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA), Spring Alive’s main sponsor. The aims of the MCFEA are to encourage the appreciation and conservation of flora and fauna with an emphasis on endangered species.

Thanks also to our competition sponsors Opticron for providing binoculars as prizes.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.