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A veritable flock of program providers, bird enthusiasts and educators participated in "Bird Conservation Through Education: A National Gathering" (February 2007). Over 150 attendees made this the largest and most diverse gathering of bird education provider groups in recent history.

     

In planning for the development of Flying WILD (2001-2004), the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) gathered input from numerous organizations involved in education efforts focusing on birds.  Not long into this process, CEE recognized the significant disadvantage of not being able to locate an annual gathering for bird educators and vowed to do something about it in the future! 

This goal materialized in February 2007 when CEE and Flying WILD hosted "Bird Conservation Through Education:  A National Gathering."  Held at the Crossings in Austin, Texas, the conference drew 155 participants from 106 organizations, making it the largest and most diverse gathering of bird education provider groups in recent history.  With twice the number of participants CEE initially anticipated, the meeting provided a tremendous opportunity for strengthening the network of organizations, programs and individuals involved in bird education.  All the while, it spoke to the need to have a regular networking and strategic planning event for bird education provider groups and practitioners. 

Representatives from federal government agencies, state agencies, large NGOs, bird-related businesses, as well as many organizations that operate at the local level, including zoos, nature centers, and bird sanctuaries, gathered to exchange ideas and forge new partnerships.  During the conference, attendees were able to initiate the development of a national bird education network, discuss critical messages to be communicated through bird education efforts, learn about outreach to diverse audiences, and to share success stories in bird education.

A major goal of the meeting was to begin a process to develop a national strategy for bird education.  At the end of the conference two resolutions were presented.  As might be expected from such a large and diverse group, lengthy discussion ensued.  Attendees passed both resolutions:

  • Resolution in Support of Bird Education:  Participants of the 2007 Bird Conservation through Education conference urge that education about birds designed to bring about action to protect and enhance birds and their habitats be supported strongly and that such education be emphasized in the formal school curriculum and given high priority in agency and organization education programs.
  • Resolution for Developing a Bird Education Plan:  Participants in the 2007 Bird Conservation through Education conference recommend that a comprehensive plan for education about birds and their conservation be developed, and that this plan set priorities and recommend the most practical and effective strategy for implementing a dynamic program of bird education.

At the conclusion of the conference, CEE invited participation in a Bird Education Working Group and a subsequent meeting was hosted in June 2007 in Denver to continue discussions. 

Since this time, CEE has formed a BEN Committee to provide guidance on a variety of efforts associated with the emerging Bird Education Network. The BEN Committee will consist of approximately eight people, each serving no longer than one two-year term in an effort to bring in bird education talent and varied interests. (For a list of the current members, see Contact Us.) The initial goal of the BEN Committee is to coordinate the national strategy for bird education that was launched at the Austin gathering. To carry this out, the BEN Committee will pay special attention to communications, promotion, the next National Gathering, and funding.
     
   
     

The creation of the Bird Education Network (BEN) provides educators working in the field of bird conservation with a variety of new tools and strategies they can employ to be more effective.

The network will allow us to exchange information on strategies, materials, resources, and programs for bird related education effectively and efficiently.  It will help ensure that recommendations by fellow professionals in the field are substituted for blind searches on the Internet.  And, it will help prevent waste of energy and funds on new development when existing materials and programs can fill a particular need.

In addition, BEN can help the field of bird education develop a clarity of thought on bird conservation and education issues.  Through discussion, recommendations, and formal surveys, and with a leavening of broad experience and deep insight, the voice of the field can be honed and tested for maximum effectiveness and utility.  The bird education field is a diverse flock of professionals and dedicated volunteers, but the Network can promote a coherent and reasoned approach to bird education that will serve us well with funders, managers, and other educators.

The Network can also serve as a link between management and education as bird educators document their successes in the use of education as a powerful tool in conservation efforts.  Directly through service learning projects, school and other habitat development, and appropriate experience in civic activities, youth can be taught how to make a difference in bird conservation.  More broadly, the network can help demonstrate how education can be not only an effective conservation tool, but is, in fact, an integral component of the suite of tools that also encompasses habitat management, land acquisition, enforcement, and research for achieving conservation goals. A BEN Bulletin was launched in June 2008 in order to facilitate communication among bird educators. An archive can be found here.

Click here to download a copy of the BEN Powerpoint highlighting our work and activities for bird education.

     
   
     

At the heart of our bird conservation efforts is the goal of conserving and enhancing the environment for birds, wildlife in general, and for us, our children, and our grandchildren.  Bird education programs that promote responsible, science-based action are highly desirable because:

  • Birds benefit when people take action to stem habitat loss and remove other barriers to healthy bird populations
  • Wildlife in general benefits because steps to protect birds and their habitats improve environmental conditions for a wide variety of plants and animals. 
  • People benefit because an environment that birds can thrive in is a healthy environment for humans.

As bird educators, we know from research that three things are needed to produce an adult who is equipped and inclined to participate responsibly and effectively in bird conservation efforts:

  • Early and repeated positive exposure to wildlife, birds, and natural areas.
  • Knowledge about natural processes, management practices, and about environmental problems and their causes
  • Empowerment and a belief in the ability to make a difference that can only be gained through skill building activities and experience in the civic and social processes that are needed to prevent or correct environmental problems.

Through the synergy that BEN makes possible, bird educators will be better equipped and their efforts to bring about responsible action will be more successful.  Whether they work in schools, nature centers, on refuges, or with a nonprofit organization, BEN can help educators do the most professional job possible as they promote awareness and respect for the natural world, ensure that environmental literacy is universal, and deliver service projects and other methods for gaining experience in effective conservation action.

     
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