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© Nature Mauritanie

2020 has been a year like no other. Spring Alive, our children’s education programme, had to make a lot of changes – but thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of our Partners, teachers and volunteers, we’ve still succeeded in inspiring and educating young minds. Here, we showcase just a few examples.

By Jessica Law

This article is part of our Spring Alive programme, which aims inspire and educate children across Africa and Eurasia about the wonders of nature and bird migration. The 2020 Spring Alive season has been made possible with the support of HeidelbergCement

Nobody could have predicted a year like 2020. There we were, prepared and excited for another year of Spring Alive events, classroom activities and outings. And then the pandemic hit, throwing everyone’s plans out of the window. With public events cancelled, schools closed and varying restrictions across different countries, you might expect nature to be at the bottom of anyone’s priorities.

But instead, something marvellous happened. As the pace of life slowed and horizons narrowed, people began to appreciate their immediate surroundings and the wildlife that lived there. People who’d never identified a bird or been on a country walk before in their life began to cherish the space, fresh air and freedom that local nature spots could give them. It’s safe to say that 2020 was the year humans woke up to nature. Spring Alive had the unique opportunity to take advantage of that enthusiasm, helping to turn this newfound respect for the natural world into a desire to learn about it and protect it.

With more people getting into birdwatching than ever before, Spring Alive’s 2020 message, “how to be a good birdwatcher,” couldn’t have been more appropriate, providing the perfect introduction to budding naturalists. Thanks to the hard work and innovation of our national Partners, school teachers and volunteers, as well as the enthusiasm of children eager to learn, we’ve managed to keep the Spring Alive spirit strong throughout 2020. Here are just a few examples of our work.

1. Armenia: online nature classes

Bearded Vulture / Մորուքավոր անգղ (Գառնանգղ)

Back in May, with no chance of a field trip on the horizon, our Armenian Partner ArAves decided to take their message straight into schools with online classes on the Spring Alive species, liaising directly with science teachers. On the ArAves website, kids had the opportunity to get creative with the things they’d learned, with more than 60 budding science writers contributing to a children’s nature blog. The blog also turned out to be a good way for children with disabilities to get involved. In addition to writing, pupils combined their talents to create a stunning video about the Egyptian Vulture.

“Another fact that makes me happy is that kids are working with their parents on these topics,” says Siranush Tumanyan, former director of ArAves.

2. Croatia: weekly bird-themed challenges

For parents, one of the biggest challenges early on in 2020 was finding activities to keep bored children happy at home. Our Croatian Partner BIOM came to the rescue with a series of weekly bird-themed challenges posted on their Facebook page. From photography and origami to bird-based poems and jokes, the wide range of challenges allowed children to explore science and nature from a different perspective to how it is usually taught at school. Most importantly, they kept children and their parents laughing and learning through a difficult time.

3. South Africa: a bird migration board game

Spring Alive © BirdLife South Africa
© BirdLife South Africa

To illustrate the obstacles and challenges migratory birds experience every year, BirdLife South Africa developed their very own bird migration board game, especially for the 2020 Spring Alive season. The Chasing Migration Board Game follows the journeys of seven Spring Alive mascots as they voyage from the northern to the southern hemisphere. Along their journey, players help their birds to find safe stopovers, replenish energy and get to their destination safely, completing bird-themed challenges on the way. Teams from the local community had great fun testing the game, which could become the next big thing…

4. Mauritania: outdoor learning

© Nature Mauritanie
© Nature Mauritanie

This year in Mauritania, COVID-19 restrictions prevented children at Noura School and Science et Savoir in Nouakchott from attending the usual World Migratory Bird Day celebrations. But that didn’t stop them from marking the day with the help of our Partner Nature Mauritanie. After learning about bird migration in the classroom, they set out to put the theory into practice, heading to Nouakchott beach to learn birdwatching techniques, bird identification, and to play bird migration games out in the open air.

5. Cyprus: building a bird-friendly garden

© BirdLife Cyprus
© BirdLife Cyprus

There’s nothing like a bit of DIY to unwind from the stresses of 2020. This year, BirdLife Cyprus compiled a list of nature-friendly activities for parents to do at home with their children. These included making your own bird bath, and detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a nesting box, outlining the different sizes and styles preferred by different bird species. Not only did these DIY projects directly benefit birds in the area, we’re sure they also provided lasting fun, as birds attracted to people’s gardens create hours of entertainment.

6. Nigeria: planting the seeds of change

© Nigerian Conservation Foundation
© Nigerian Conservation Foundation

There’s no better way to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day than by making your area a better place for birds. This year, our Partner the Nigerian Conservation Foundation organised tree planting sessions at Finima Nature Park, a patch of verdant freshwater swamp forest along Nigeria’s coast. Students, teachers and members of the local community came together to restore the forest’s vegetation. They also took part in birdwatching activities, observing the birds and wildlife that would benefit from their actions.

We only had room for a few examples, but we would like to thank everybody in the Spring Alive Partnership for their flexibility, ingenuity and dedication this year.

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