Early Bird catches them young! Browsing through the Facebook page of the Nature Conservation Foundation’s (NCF) initiative, one cannot help but wonder about the incredible artworks and poetry about birds.
And hold onto your wings; they are all contributed by children as young as six-year-olds.
Truly a welcome change from the overdose of screen time that most children are getting addicted to in these times of crisis.
“This pandemic has really helped us unlock the potential of the online medium for teaching and learning, and has given us the opportunity to connect directly with children from all over,” says Garima Bhatia, Project Manager, Early Bird.
During the recent lockdown, Bengaluru-based Early Bird has conducted over 30 webinars for children on a range of topics such as balcony birding, understanding bird song, their ecology and learning about the winged creatures through art, games and quizzes.
Some sessions were in Tamil and Kannada as well. The organisation also developed interactive digital posters where one can even hear the call of the bird after viewing its picture.
Bhatia says the webinars have been enjoyed tremendously by children and they have received some wonderful feedback from parents. In fact, they recently received a video from the parents of a three-year-old who had learnt to identify all the 40 birds featured in their flashcards—like a duck to water!
Started six years ago, Early Bird is a not-for-profit initiative of the Education and Public Engagement programme of NCF, whose charter is to engage the wider public in appreciating birds and other elements of nature.
The initial objective of the programme was to develop high-quality educational material relating to Indian birds for children.
“On researching we found out that there was no material on native birds for children. Also, the urban school-going children were more aware of non-Indian wildlife; for instance, they knew all about Bald Eagles and hummingbirds of the west but not about our very own Brahminy kites and sun birds,” adds Bhatia.
So, the aim was to promote the knowledge and interest in the birds in India—home to 13 percent of the world’s bird species.
Beginning with a set of flashcards on 40 Indian birds, Early Bird has been producing engaging materials such as posters, jigsaw puzzles, activity sheets, games and pocket guide books for children.
The materials, which have been widely distributed and tested by several schools, have managed to create an interest in birding among children.
“We have developed over 10 pocket guide books at the request of several organisations working in the field of bird and nature conservation.
Unlike bulky field guides, these are lucid, convenient, easy to understand and suitable for even 9- and 10-year-olds once they have developed an interest in birding.
They are bilingual i.e. published in English and the local language of the particular region. So, a pocket guide of birds native to Karnataka will be published in English and Kannada,” quips Bhatia.
Their latest pocket guide, Birds of Goa, was released in September in English and Konkani, in collaboration with Goa Bird Conservation Network.
Apart from translation of the flashcards in Tamil, which will be available soon, future plans include a new initiative called the Young Birders’ Network.
This one aims to encourage children who are birdwatchers, by facilitating an understanding of not just birds in isolation but their surroundings and natural history as well.
They plan to do this initially through a series of online interactions, and eventually via a young birders camp. More wings to Early Bird!
*Activities and games in different languages available for download from https://www.early-bird.in/resources/
*Print materials available for purchase at https://www.instamojo.com/ncf
*Check out the resourceful videos on their YouTube channel