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For the Birds!

For the Birds!  More than just a “m” in the sky…

Can you draw a bird?  Can you name a famous wildlife artist?  John James Audobon is one that captured the imaginations of 240 third and fourth graders last week at the Creativity Festival in Minneapolis!  Kids mixed together story, art, engineering, and nature play at the workshops with Growing Green Hearts.  After exploring the letter B, black, and BIRDS! preschoolers in Ms. Emily’s class used their creativity to engineer a bird-friendly solution for their yard or apartment balcony.  If you would like Growing Green Hearts to do the same for kids at your school, find more information here.

What’s the big deal with birds?  Well, birds can go where they want too.  They are a sign of a healthy ecosystem.  When we take care of birds, we are seeing and conserving the larger environmental systems.  After all, from wetlands and prairies to hardwood and coniferous forests, the earth’s systems of water, air, land, and living things are interconnected.  Feeding birds to help them through a cold snap is just as important as understanding habitat destruction.  The Mississippi River is used by migrating birds as a fly-way, or path to follow as they migrate.  As bird habitats in Minnesota change from people or climate, the places where birds winter in the Amazon are being cleared for farmland.  Birds we see in Minnesota may spend summers in the arctic circle or fly as far south as Patagonia for summer temperatures.

What’s Audobon’s story?  Since he was just a little kid in France Audobon loved nature, especially birds.  His father wanted him to be navy sea captain, but finding that physics and math were not his son’s strong suit Jean Jacques (later called John James) was sent to Pennsylvania at the age of 18.  He soon let go of the farming responsibilities to grab onto the study of America’s birds.  Studying birds is called ornithology.  Audobon’s contributions to science and art, both an ornithologist and painter, was not fully recognized until later in his life.  In fact, he had to travel back to Europe to get his famous Birds of America published and sold.  Get more of the story and see some amazing art in the biography for kids, First Impressions: John James Audobon by Joseph Kastner.

Want Not Waste Not?  The Audobon society was started in his honor in the late 1800’s by George Bird Grinnell, a family friend concerned about America’s birds being killed for fashionable feathers.  That’s right, songbirds were being killed in large numbers just for a few feathers.  Grinnell knew well of Audobon’s scientific study of birds and habitats that he documented so thoroughly in his paintings.  Learn more about how the work of the Audobon Society continues today at http://www.audubon.org.

Play. Learn. Love.

January 2015