Green bee eater
Green bee eater

Learning to fly

Early Bird, part of an established non-profit trust called Nature Conservation Foundation, was started in 2014.

On most weekends, seven-year-old Dhruv tags along with a team of birders in Coimbatore to indulge in his favourite hobby—observing the avifauna. Encouraged by his interest, his mother recently enrolled him to an online course—The Wonder of Birds—created by Early Bird, a not-for-profit initiative, based in Bengaluru. Dhruv can now answer almost any question you throw at me around his feathered friends—Birds that are more closely related to dinosaurs, Check; those that can spot their food from three km above the ground, Check; fledglings that are smaller than the palm of your hand but can fly thousands of kilometres, perfectly timed and precisely navigated, Check… He knows it all.

Early Bird, part of an established non-profit trust called Nature Conservation Foundation, was started in 2014. It now has educational content about Indian birds in 10 languages, and the course can be freely downloaded, apt for all ages, comprising high-quality videos, along with infographics and quizzes. “We wanted it to be entertaining as well as educational, child-friendly (but not childish), and free of jargon. We spent over a year putting together the different elements,” says course director Garima Bhatia.

Painted stork
Painted stork

The course—supported by the Bengaluru-based Rainmatter Foundation that supports organisations for climate action, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies that gives grants for programmes structured around environment, and The Habitats Trust that supports individuals working towards conserving India’s natural habitats—is aimed at anyone who is curious about birds. “We worked closely with award-winning creative director Rituraj Singh to write the scripts and his editor Bishwajeet Singh, to put together the visuals. The video clips used in the films have been obtained from various sources,” says the 51-year-old Bhatia.

The entire course is structured around 16 short films on different topics. For example, one film talks about the surprising origin of birds (they are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs), and their amazing superpowers (Snowy Owls can track their prey under two feet of snow). The accompanying activity is a quiz where one can learn more about what makes birds unique (e.g. birds can see ultraviolet colours, some birds can sense taste from their beaks). Another film in the last chapter talks about the threats and challenges facing birds.

“At Early Bird we believe, in the words of environmental educator David Soebel, that ‘we must give children the chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it’,” says Bhatia. Hard to disagree with that.

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The New Indian Express
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