Kids Go Wild Learning about Migratory Birds

By Dionné Mej̨ía

November 2018

“Cool, I love the red throat on the hummingbird,” claimed a young student during Lincoln Elementary School’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) night on November 14th, 2018. Numerous students examined bird study skins and nests to learn about three particular birds—the black-throated gray warbler, the great blue heron, and the rufous hummingbird—which are native to the Willamette Valley and migrate all the way to Mexico! Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) and Mary’s River Watershed Council (MRWC) showed off some project materials for Classrooms Across Borders, a project that will share ecological and cultural lessons between students in Oregon and Mexico. At the STEAM night, the partners' interactive booths at the event including bird nests, study skins and mammal pelts and skulls to teach students about native animals.

In Classrooms Across Borders, IAE, MRWC, and Greenbelt Land Trust are working with third grade Lincoln and Garfield students to create a twinning project between students in the Willamette Valley and students in Guanajuato, Mexico. This program focuses on watershed ecology and migratory birds that are shared between the Willamette River and the Laja River basin in Mexico. Corvallis students will share their bird projects with our sister school, Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Three of the program’s high school mentors, Ella Rose, Ariana Leon-Castillo, and Kat Sincuir-Alvarez, attended the event and awarded raffle tickets to students for participating in the booth and speaking Spanish. Stacy Moore, Ecological Education Program Director at IAE, said “It was fun to teach children about the animals that live in our backyard, and to have our staff and mentors speak with kids and their parents in both English and Spanish.” The Classrooms Across Borders project is support by the Gray Family Foundation, Trust Management Services and private donors.

Since the Willamette River and the Rio Laja watersheds share similar habitats and host several of the same bird species, they are part of a larger Twinning project initiated from a 2012 Thiess International Riverprize award to the Meyer Memorial Trust. Other partners in this initiative include Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, the Oregon Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS), Instituto Tecnolȯgico Superior de Irapuato (ITESI), and Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development. To learn more about the larger Willamette-Laja Twinning Project, click here.

Kathleen Westly of Mary’s River Watershed Council educates Lincoln Elementary students about migratory birds, November 2018

High School ambassador Ella Rose teaches children about animal skins and skulls