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The Final Bird Club Meeting

August 13, 2012

Last Wednesday was the final day the Union Educativa Modelo Tomás de Berlanga Bird Club would be gathering under my supervision. In the end, I was never able to get the papier-mâché project off the ground for most of the kids – two students did end up making penguins, but forgot to bring them to this last day to attach body parts and spray the final product with a protective varnish, and my hosts’ son painted a bird I made (looks like a male frigatebird). The photo above is of the Blue-footed Booby I made for my host family.

This is my favorite of all the kids’ artwork partly because the bird’s lower body was formed from accidentally spilled black paint, which was very liquidy. The creative salvaging ended up making a unique shape and simple color scheme; the wavy line of black separating the maxilla and mandible (top and bottom halves) of the beak in particular strikes me for some reason.

Since everyone lost or forgot their balloon creations, I had to quickly come up with an alternative for the last day, and I decided to use the cereal box materials I had planned to utilize in wing and beak construction as canvases for simple painted birds* on cardboard. The results were great, and the kids enjoyed painting existing or imaginary species and receiving certificates of participation from the Celebrate Urban Birds program! Thinking about the results of the Bird Club, I believe the certain lasting contributions are that all the participating students:

  • Can differentiate between male and females in finches, Yellow Warblers, and frigatebirds; and juveniles and adults and Brown Pelicans and frigatebirds
  • Can recognize Cactus Finches
  • Know that Yellow Warblers aren’t one of the Darwin’s finch species
  • Gained

Those students who were older and asked more questions learned about egg-laying periods, behavioral patterns, distribution ranges, and less commonly seen species. In one day with a boy of 9th grade — the only male Club member to attend from that age group — we saw 17 species, which was great for a period of 2 hours walking around the Puerto Ayora and Punta Estrada area (a 60 cent water-taxi ride from the Puerto to Punta Estrada was necessary, and while we were fortunate to see several species in particular, just a little more luck, or perhaps another half hour, would have given us up to at least 22 species, which would have been excellent for a normal pair of hours walking around town).

My hope is that the participant students from Tomás de Berlanga walk away from the Bird Club with a better understanding of the avian life that surrounds them and attracts so many thousands of tourists to the archipelago every year, and I think this is the case for some of the kids, so I am satisfied! I believe many of the students realized how fun it can be to simply observe the birds flitting about their back yards or school grounds and appreciate the unique species that make the Galápagos so special.

*Note: I also really like the birds linked to in “canvas” and “simple painted birds” because the former was considered a failed first attempt by the student but ended up looking like a cool abstract of a bird, and the latter’s simplicity is complemented by the creative use of folding the cardboard, which made the great “movement” effect in the wings.

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