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Mini-grant Application Season Re-opened

2013 October 16
by Seth Inman

With every autumn comes the falling of leaves, the appearance of cider- and pumpkin-flavored hot drinks, and our invitation to apply for a mini-grant. You may have seen some of our mini-grant highlights posted over the summer, like the Celebrate Birds Month at a school in Mexico or some West Virginian Earth Day events, but if you missed those posts and are still unsure what a mini-grant is, read on!

The creation of a garden shed and mural in Groundwork Lawrence's habitat restoration project. Read more.

The creation of a garden shed and mural in Groundwork Lawrence’s habitat restoration project. Read more.

You may have heard of a National Science Foundation grant for scientific research, or an Academic Competitiveness Grant for college students. A Celebrate Urban Birds Mini-grant is similar in that it is designed to help recipient groups pursue their interests and it is awarded based on recipients’ commitment to the subject and their potential to have a positive impact on the world. Our grants average $100-$500, hence the “mini-” prefix, but this is still a good chunk of change that can easily make a difference in your neighborhood through a bird-celebration event that combines three essential elements: community involvement, “greening” or bird habitat creation, and the arts.
Texas Junior Naturalists participating in an art project. Read more.

Texas Junior Naturalists participating in an art project. Read more.

In the past, mini-grant winners have used their funds in different ways. In 2009, the Queen City Creamery & Deli in Cumberland, MD added plants and birdbaths to their neighborhood, partnered with nearby county libraries in arts activities, and encouraged bird observations by offering free ice cream to participants. In 2012, a Girl Scouts of America troop (Troop 252) worked with a retirement community and with WSKG in Binghampton, NY to develop a garden park with a mural and benches that is now enjoyed by the whole neighborhood. Last year, the Branch Brook School in Newark, NJ had a bird tally and celebration at the nearby Branch Brook Park that revolved around students teaching others about observing and identifying birds, and local artists, musicians, and politicians attended the event.

Now that you’ve seen some examples of how our mini-grants work, check out our FAQs, download some of the resources we already have available for you, browse past winners (click on the middle tab), and of course send us your mini-grant application!

Careers, Conservation and Nature Youth Workshop

2013 August 14
by Seth Inman

Are you twelve to eighteen years old and interested in learning about careers in the sciences, conservation, and the arts? Or do you have a friend, family member, or student who is? If so, you should consider applying or encourage those you know to apply for a spot in our Careers, Conservation and Nature Workshop for youth this October 24th and 25th! If you are a teacher or mentor to youth, you can also send us a nomination, which you can learn more about below.

At the workshop, you’ll learn about conservation science and what you can do in your neighborhood to make a difference. While visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you and other attendees will be able to talk with and learn from staff in seven different departments of the Lab, including Bioacoustics, Citizen Science, Visual Media, and Evolutionary Biology. This means you might end up banding a Black-capped Chickadee, study the sonogram of a warbler’s song with Macaulay Library experts, or check out museum specimen in our vertebrates collection!

workshop banding_eventWe’re offering full scholarships to low-income teens in the northeastern United States (see a full list of these states here). These scholarships cover travel, accommodation, food, and workshop expenses, and are available to students who are eligible for reduced/free meals at school. We accept both applications from you, the student, or nominations from an educator or chaperone who would like to bring outstanding youth to our attention. You can access the student application form here and the educator/chaperone nomination form here.

We’ll interview all youth and adults who are nominating youth before accepting participants into the program, and we’re looking for students who haven’t had this sort of opportunity before. Our goal is to provide a rich experience that will motivate, excite, and teach youth about opportunities and paths in higher education. We often work with youth who haven’t considered getting a degree beyond high school, or who have never traveled outside of their home city. Many past participants spoke no English (all our programs are bilingual in English and Spanish) or knew nothing about birds; some had dropped out of school, others were highly motivated and were seeking new opportunities, and several were looking for mentors and role models to guide them. We do our best to keep everyone’s interests in mind while satisfying the whole group.

So if you want to experience cutting-edge research, explore how the arts can be used to mobilize communities to engage in conservation, try out Cornell University’s dining hall meals, and meet people like you who are interested in learning more about science and higher education, then apply today! Youth will need to travel to Cornell with an adult chaperone (funds for attendance will be provided, and learn more about chaperone duties here). If you have any questions, please email us at or call us at 607-254-2455.


Mini-grant Highlight: The Shack

2013 August 8
by Seth Inman

All photos © The Shack Neighborhood House

All photos © The Shack Neighborhood House

shack-neighborhood-house-participants_mini-grant-eventIn Pursglove, West Virginia, The Shack Neighborhood House is always looking for new and creative ways to engage their participants, and bird-watching is a new experience for most of their members and staff, so they combined the arts, gardening and local bird-watching into one fun-filled event that celebrated Earth Day this spring!

On April 20th, 2013 The Shack partnered with the Audubon Society and their local Master Gardening program, (as well as CUBs, of course) to encourage their 120 event participants, which included member families, community members, and local leaders to celebrate being outside and learning more about the nature and creatures around them, allowing them to appreciate and interact with their outdoor environment in a new way.

shack-neighborhood-house_mini-grant-eventAt the event were various booths with fun and educational activities for kids, like a game where they sorted recyclable materials, a composting game, seedling- and flower-planting, and healthy snacks. Two scientists from West Virginia University came to showcase examples of exotic bugs (and not only dead specimens!) and different stages of rock formation. Also, local artist Eddie Spaghetti hosted a booth with a great collection of crafts material for kids to create bird-themed art to take home.

Jenna Lohnes, one of the event organizers, wrote us:
“I was delighted by how interested our young people were to do the bird observation. Even toddlers as young as 2 and 3 were really excited to try and find birds and quietly waited for them.” She also mentioned that the week after the event, The Shack had a guest speaker come talk about career choices at the after-school program. Jenna writes that, “He asked our kids what they wanted to do when they group up expecting the typical ‘athlete, doctor, fireman’ answers (the speaker was a former WVU football player) and was surprised when several of our elementary aged kids who attended the Earth Day celebration quickly answered: ‘entomologist’ and ‘ornithologist’.” We couldn’t ask for a more inspiring response to the amazing work by The Shack Neighborhood House! To learn more about the group, check out their website!