21 Dec 2017

Thinking outside the box: engaging tomorrow's conservationists

Throughout 2017, conservationists have been visiting schools and communities across Eurasia and Africa as part of BirdLife's Spring Alive project. At the end of the year, Spring Alive reflects on some of their most exciting ways of inspiring both children and adults about migratory birds and nature.

This year, Spring Alive brought out their first children's story book © Spring Alive
This year, Spring Alive brought out their first children's story book © Spring Alive
By Jessica Law

As the Spring Alive season in Africa draws to a close, we can bask in the glow of a job well done. This year, we’ve thought outside the box to come up with innovative ways of getting children to really engage with the birds they share their day-to-day lives with. These have included our first ever children’s story book, a Spring Alive cuddly toy, and even a bird fact “advent calendar”. Here are three projects whose success has encapsulated this season’s achievements:

 

30 Days of Spring

 

To kick off the season in South Africa, we had great fun designing the “advent calendar” of facts and activities, one per day, taking children on a month-long journey to learn about bird migration. CDs were distributed throughout schools across the country, containing 30 bite-sized activities designed to gradually build up the class’ knowledge in a fun and varied manner. Tasks ranged from word searches and food web designs to recording and monitoring the birds in their own neighbourhood.

 

Bite-sized activities proved a fun way to gradually build knowledge about bird migration © Spring Alive

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Teachers reported that this was the perfect way to introduce children to Spring Alive’s message. Thanks to 30 Days of Spring, children across South Africa have gained a better understanding of the birds they see around them, aware of the fact that some of the species they encounter are on just one step of an amazing round-the-world journey.

 

Children’s book release

 

2017 also saw the publication of Spring Alive’s very first children’s story book: “Ringo – the Journey of a White Stork.” This charmingly-illustrated narrative follows the eponymous Ringo on her journey from a nestling in Germany to her first migration to Wakkerstroom, South Africa. On the way, she encounters issues common to many migrating birds: conservation efforts like the ringing of chicks, and negative human impacts such as hunting and climate change. The book shines a light on the fascinating life history of the species itself, from nest building and raising young to the way in which individuals communicate with each other. It also incorporates tales of human traditions surrounding the White Stork, and the ways in which some European villages honour this symbolic bird.

The book has already been distributed in electronic form to 60 schools across South Africa, with the plan to expand to another 40 schools in 2018. 

 

Spring Alive's new cuddly companion, Ringo the White Stork, helps children to connect with a migration story © Spring Alive

 

To bring Ringo and her story to life, Spring Alive created an adorable White Stork toy to accompany the book - and it even bears the leg ring that inspired the original story idea. Having something tangible to hold, like this toy, provides young children with a character to connect with, allowing them to identify better with the White Stork and its inspirational migration journey. This year, the story book has already gone a long way towards connecting birds with people.

 

Conservation Club workshops

 

Following this year’s theme, “Don’t Take Chicks With You”, a range of activities were designed to spread the important message of how to act if we find a chick outside its nest. In this vein, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF - BirdLife in Nigeria) trained school Conservation Club co-ordinators to run workshops that could then be taken back to their schools.

 

 

One practical session taught Club co-ordinators how to construct bird feeders and nest boxes, which were then replicated in their respective schools, with impressive results. Children were also invited to enter a drawing competition, with equally skillful responses.

With reactions like these, it’s clear that the next generation of conservationists are going to be more talented and passionate than ever before – we just need to make sure that talent is discovered and nurtured.

 

Find out more about Spring Alive's work on their website.