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Spring Alive is here: how Heidelberg Materials educates children on the wonders of nature

With summer unfolding as we’d expect, with buds maturing and timid flowers awakening, how exciting to hear the sounds of returning migratory birds signalling the magnificent cycles of nature and season that anchor us all. And yet, all is not well, not as it should be. At HeidelbergCement, like the entire planet, in the communities in which we work and live, all are touched by the incessant and unforgiving progress of the Coronavirus and its attendant disease COVID‑19.

By Shane Sparg, Conservation Partnerships Manager

The biodiversity we treasure, whose health we foster and nurture in our global operations, has its harsh elements as well. When nature is not respected, and her needs left unheeded, she can exact a terrible price. Which is why, as we support our Heidelberg Materials family in the face of the pandemic, we also rededicate ourselves to our commitment to nature and biodiversity across our operations in all we do. 

Our exciting Spring Alive program has had a great 12 months and we’re all adapting together to a more virtual adventure. Although we may have confined ourselves, our feathered friends have been flying north enthusiastically and we have been observing them from the safety of our windowsills and our gardens. Spring Alive is a project organised by BirdLife International, and made possible with Heidelberg Materials’ generous support, which aims to inspire and educate children across Africa and Eurasia about the wonders of nature and bird migration. Through workshops, school activities and family events, this initiative aims to create the next generation of conservationists.  

One key initiative we can maintain in these curious times is to ensure that our windows are safe for birds. We have disseminated a wide range of engaging graphics and messages that both our partners and their audiences can adopt to help protect birds from the invisible threat our shiny clean windows can represent. Another Spring Alive Heidelberg Materials initiative is “How to be a good birdwatcher” which can be illustrated enthusiastically by our competition soliciting handmade drawings or paintings showing how birdwatching can be fun, safe and kind to birds. We can also contemplate birdwatching and social distancing, as described by our BirdLife partner Audubon. As Audubon says, birding can be great for our mental health and well-being – in these stressful times, just gazing out your window and closely observing any birds you see can help. 

We are also inspired by some of the recent activities we’ve helped make possible before COVID-19. Across the two continents of Africa and Europe and their flyways, BirdLife partners and Heidelberg Materials have hosted a cornucopia of activities involving a wide range of participants, primarily kids, their families and teachers. In the Czech Republic, for example, 248 people collected data about 109 sand martin colonies in 132 outings.

An extensive Facebook campaign reached over 54,000 people.  In Ghana, school events reached over 700 students and a special ‘bird walk’ attracted over 150 participants, one of whom called it “a great learning experience.”  In Georgia and Romania, in classrooms and in quarries, students and communities studied and learned about the broader concept of biodiversity, beyond the excitement of migrating birds, from soils to lizard to amphibians, from raptors back to our favorite sand martin.

Children were taught how to use binoculars and the basics to bird identification, which proved useful as they walk through the quarries spotting a range of bird species. Due to the poor weather conditions, the event in Poland was restricted to indoor learning activities hosted by the Polish Heidelberg Materials subsidiary Górażdże Cement and run by an enthusiastic team from OTOP, BirdLife’s Polish partner. However, the weather did not dampen the excitement, as over 150 children and parents turned up to what was a most enjoyable morning’s activities, with some participants requesting it to be an annual event. 

So, cooped up though you may have been, as we all waited for migratory birds to arrive this spring, keep an eye out for the wonderful sand martin, and don’t forget about its amazing and unique lifestyle and place in the surrounding biodiversity – an example of people and nature living side by side with the help of BirdLife International and Heidelberg Materials. Find out more about Spring Alive at

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