After a last minute venue change due to light rain, I met Michael McClafferty and other teachers from Trinity Brach State School at Munro Martin Parklands. I would introduce approximately 200 year two children to Birding and to Greening the school environment.
Half the children would attend the Cairns Aquarium while I caught the attention of the other half then a swap was made.
Each child had been well prepared for the excursion. Some weeks prior I had delivered copies of “The Wing Thing” as well as other literature pertaining to Birding in the tropics. A list of likely birds to be seen, a Field Guide and a book on Greening your School Grounds was included. I delivered a nest box that had been donated by Birds in Schools and this had been erected in a large Melaleuca in the playground.
To gain the immediate attention of this age group I began with the scientific connection of the Therapod Dinosaurs to modern day birds. Silence and wonder as the children digested this amazing fact. They love dinosaur information.
They learnt about the importance of rigorous data collection, the monitoring of birds and then entering the facts into Birdata for future analysis. That there is no place for exaggerated species numbers or lying about what you have seen was finally accepted by the children (dirty looks by some towards others and a certain smugness appeared from some).
After displaying poster sized images of many of the common birds seen about Cairns, including raptors and waders, we set off on a bird walk about the Parklands. There was much chatter and laughter and decided happiness whenever someone was the first to sight a bird.
The major impetus now that most Birds in Schools content has gone on-line comes from those teachers who are interested in Greening the School environment. By encouraging bird monitoring, frog ponds, shrub and tree planting and by fostering an interest in the ecology of their surroundings.
Mr McClafferty tells me that the children are now monitoring the nest box in their school grounds and regularly monitoring bird species as well as other fauna.
On a recent field trip to Kowanyama I met with the headmaster of the State School. This was a lunchtime appointment and an interesting experience for me. The town Elders and an enormous number of dogs were visiting the school providing lunch, friendly gossip and information with the children. The atmosphere was friendly, inclusive, educational and respectful.
High School students are sent to boarding school further south and many different schools are chosen for their secondary education.
Most of the Rangers/ children were already aware of “The Red Bird (White-bellied Crimson Finch) and that scientists were very interested in following the Red Bird progress. They knew that the Red Bird enjoyed the seed from Grader grass and if they found grader grass in seed to look for the bird. It seems that nests were readily found in local Pandanus. They were also aware of the Black-bellied Crimson Finch and that intergrading may occur.
I left the headmaster with some Birds in School packs that I had made up, including some Gouldian Finch information, contact details and some Wing Thing copies.
We are grateful for the enormous contribution of indigenous people to the knowledge and conservation of our Australian Birds. By recognising that the indigenous children will receive this vast depository of culture and knowledge we are hoping for the conservation of fauna and flora well into the future.
Photos and article by Pippy Cannon.
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