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Celebrating Birds (and Aristotle?) in Tacacorí, Costa Rica

2014 September 26
by Seth Inman and James Zainaldin


img_20140724_080707_933About fifteen minutes downhill from Xandari by foot, the primary school at Tacacorí serves first through sixth graders from the local community. Xandari has collaborated with the school on multiple occasions in the past, and also regularly cares for their grounds (mowing the lawn, etc.). This semester, third and fourth graders don’t have an art class in their normal schedule, so it seemed a perfect opportunity for James and me to go over and do a week-long art project with the kids.
Of course, I stuck with what I know best for art projects with young children, and decided upon papier-mâché and painting on little cardboard canvases, just like I had done in the James and I went to the third and fourth grade classes during their Spanish classes and for about an hour and twenty Galápagos a couple years ago. minutes each a day we showed them how to use newspaper, glue, and a balloon to create the body of a bird. Then, with recycled cardboard from Xandari, we gave them canvases to paint on as well as the materials to make beaks, wings, tails, and feet for the birds.camerazoom-20140724081539629

It’s hard to take photos when your hands are covered with watery glue or bright paint, but James and I used our phones to snap some pictures of the kids’ creations to share here.


The second half of the week, Seth and I were split up because of the kids’ conflicting class schedules. I took fourth grade on the last few days, and he worked with third grade.
In his Poetics, Aristotle elaborates an aesthetic theory partly on the basis of μίμησις (mimēsis), or “imitation.” According to Aristotle, humans are “mimetic” beings, that is, disposed to imitate nature and other human beings. Art’s basis is precisely in the imitation of the world around us, of events and things both serious and comic. Imitation is pleasurable for human beings, Aristotle says, because as a kind of learning it satisfies our natural curiosity and desire for knowledge.

upload_zps8445763eThe kids at Tacacorí corroborated Aristotle’s observations in two ways: first, by showing their great enjoyment and enthusiasm at imitating nature (vis-à-vis birds); second, by showing their natural tendency to imitate whatever kind of exemplar Seth or I put up on the board. For this reason, the birds that the kids painted and worked on in the last couple of days tended to diverge. Penguins came up in my class for some reason, probably because of the shape of some of the balloons, so a fair majority of the fourth grade class ended up working on penguins.

Check out the wonderful photo gallery bellow!

Your wellness, birds, and the outdoors

2014 September 3
by Nancy Cervantes

El Primer Festival Cuba 1

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or barely getting interested in the topic, you’ll be sure to find interesting information in our mini-series starting today. This series will contain wellness tips that will make you glad to be involved in activities outdoors and birding.

El Primer Festival Cuba 2Bird observation requires spending time outdoors, which is a great activity for our mental and physical health. Even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, going out for a 10 minute walk around your neighborhood can be relaxing and fun! In the age of technology and business, not many people take the time to go outside and enjoy nature. Nowadays everything seem that it can be done from on a computer, or even on your phone, which leaves little to no incentive to spend time with nature. Birding gives people a reason to be outside that is interesting, healthy, and fun. We hope that birds can give you the extra push you need to get out there and enjoy nature!

Simply being outside give us benefits such as maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D, getting some fresh air, and spending time in a relaxing atmosphere. It also gives us the chance to spend some time with loved ones and have a great time while enjoying fresh air. Other benefits include: exercise, improved cardiovascular health, psychological well-being, among others.

El Primer Festival Cuba 3Stay tuned to our blog in the coming weeks for more detailed blog posts on specific benefits of spending time outdoors and the indirect effect of birding on our mental and physical wellness. Enjoy nature and the birds in it, while you improve your health, mood, and have fun outside.

Starting the Conversation

2014 July 23
by Karen Purcell

Niños plantando girasoles en macetas para llevar a sus hogares en Syracuse, NY

Children planting sunflowers in pots to bring home and share with their families in Syracuse , New York.

Did you know that the U.S. census predicts that by 2050 one in four U.S citizens will be Hispanic/Latino?

Our demographics are changing! As a leading conservation organization we have to wonder if we are doing enough to genuinely involve Latino communities in every aspect of conservation: science, education, stewardship, politics, and leadership. Is the Latino community equally present at the head of the table when we examine issues in environmental conservation? Are all neighborhoods equally represented? Are the pressing issues in low-income Latino neighborhoods a priority when we think of the environment or are they pushed to the back burner? Is there equal representation in science and conservation so that issues of importance to Latino communities can be prioritized?

Jóvenes y guías a prendiendo y disfrutando de la flora y fauna local en Laurence Massachusetts. Photo©Groundwork Lawrence

Youth and mentors learning about and enjoying the local plants and animals in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Photo by Groundwork Lawrence

Unfortunately the “traditional” environmental movement (including many mainstream organizations focused on the environment) struggle or fail to engage Latino communities altogether. Common frustrations are that it is “too difficult” to engage Latino communities in environmental education activities, or that there is “no interest” on the part of the community. On the other hand, Latino communities (including organizations advocating for Latino communities) struggle to connect with environmental organizations that may provide exciting opportunities, resources, or funding. Latino organizations may not trust mainstream environmental organizations if they feel that they will be used simply to “get” a grant and there is no sincere desire to collaborate equitably; if they feel that their community is being ‘studied’ or ‘used’; or if they feel that there is a great disparity in power.

Educators teaching about local birds at a residential complex in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Kids at Home in the Wild

Educators teaching about local birds at a residential complex in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Kits at Home in the Wild.

Let’s talk specifically about low-income Latino neighborhoods. There is so much to think about when examining issues of equity and inclusion. Low-income Latino communities may not have safe spaces to enjoy the outdoors and work demands for many Latinos may limit leisure time outdoors (and elsewhere). In addition there are many issues that mainstream communities may not ever need to think about in terms of connecting with the environment. For instance, if a community creates safe green spaces, will the value of properties in that neighborhood increase — making it unaffordable to live there? If parents grew up working in low-paying manual labor jobs will they want to encourage their children to spend time outdoors or will they encourage indoor activities that may lead to more options?

Familia plantando en jardín comuniario de su vecindario en Dorchester, Massachusetts. Foto por Holly Rosa.

Family planting at a community garden in a neighborhood at Dorchester, Massachusetts. Photo por Holly Rosa.

So how can families connect with the environment? How can they better their quality of life by spending more time in green spaces? How can they learn about and teach their children about the natural world that surrounds them? And if families are not connecting with the environment how can we hope to better it and conserve it? But perhaps more important, we need to ask, how more Latinos can take on leadership roles in conservation and the sciences?

So how do we get the conversation going? What can be done to improve equity,
diversity, and inclusion in Environmental Conservation activities? How can we address environmental injustices in low-income Latino neighborhoods? How can we get everyone at the table?

Joven compartiendo con su comunidad lo aprendido acerca de la flora y fauna de Cantera, en San Juan Puerto Rico. Foto de Leaders for the World.

Youth sharing her knowledge about local birds and plants of Cantera with her community in San Juan Puerto Rico. Photo by Leaders for the World.

Creating the time and space to foster friendships, conversations, and listening may be the key to inclusion and equity. When we take the time to talk with each other, the time to really listen, and when we pause and try to understand other perspectives we can begin to make progress. When we begin to understand our own barriers we can begin to change.

Sometimes unseen barriers between the environmental conservation movement and Latino communities go beyond language and cultural differences; sometimes what is really needed is time and space to understand; sometimes simply by promoting friendships and deep conversation, those unseen barriers can soften and disappear.

Celebrate Urban Birds, in collaboration with EECapacity, has created a Bilingual Professional Learning Community (PLC) to promote listening, talking, and the space to understand each other.

This Professional Learning Community is for Latino community leaders, Latino environmental educators, and environmental educators who want to work with Latino communities. It is an opportunity to meet (online), exchange ideas, experiences, share successes, failures, laughs, and simply get to know each other. The goal is to create an online publication (eBook) to inspire and help educators to collaborate effectively with Latino communities and to help Latino communities find quality environmental education resources of use and create equitable partnerships with leading environmental organizations. EECapacity logo

We began the PLC less than a month ago and nearly 50 participants are actively, enthusiastically, honestly talking with and learning from each other to achieve a common goal. This week we are exploring experiences and resources useful to community organizations, non-profits, art-based organizations, churches, zoos, parks, educators, and community leaders in Latino communities. Our discussions and meetings are both in English and Spanish. It takes a little longer to do it in both languages — but it is absolutely key to creating a space that encourages genuine conversation, listening, and understanding!

We will complete our co-created online publication by December 2014. It will be free and available to everyone. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Let’s get the conversation going!