Back in the early spring, I got a call from a friend of mine from my Early Childhood PTA group. She asked me if I would be the Environmental Chairman for the group for the 2009-2010 year. In a sleep deprived stupor I said "Sure!" without really thinking it all through. I love the position but this may have been a bad year for me to take on any more responsibilities since I'm struggling with all that's on my plate already. However, I have fumbled my way through and have some great events and outings scheduled to get the kids outside and learning about nature and their environment.
We had our first outing today. Last year when I was speaking at some of the Park Board meetings, I met a woman named Marsha Gavitt who is an expert on local birds. I got in touch with her to see if she would be willing to talk with our children about local birds including helping them tell different birds apart so they might can identify some of the birds they see out on the playgrounds. She was delighted. We met at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens and had a great turn out.
I brought some plush birds that have a button on them that the children could press to hear the bird's song. The songs are from actual recordings taken by the Cornell Lab of Orinthology. The kids really loved holding the birds, seeing the difference between the birds, and hearing their different songs.
My kids have fallen in love with these birds too. Rachel crawls around while dragging one around with her and Nicholas just loves to press the buttons to make them sing over and over and over again.
I gave the children their own bird badge that they could wear around their neck. It has pictures of the most common local birds that they might see. The pictures are numbered and on the back is a list of the names of the birds. I hope that this will help some of the moms learn how to identify birds as well! We also did a craft in which the children threaded Cheerios on a pipe cleaner to make their own bird feeders to hang from a tree branch at home. The craft was cheap and super easy for most of the children there. Putting the Cheerios on the pipe cleaner also made for a good fine motor exercise. Plus there was the added benefit that the craft was edible for those kids who were getting fussy and hungry.
I had a good time and I'm pretty sure the children enjoyed it as well. Maybe this won't be so difficult after all. I'm just a little sad that I'm doing all of this at a time when Rachel is still too young to really participate in the activities. But she enjoyed being at the gardens, playing with the plush birds, and snacking on Cheerios.