New book for educators teaches children to become budding birders

Birdwatching can help children to tune into nature. Lack of exposure to nature is an alarming aspect of modern life leading to nature deficit disorder, say the authors of 'Handbook for Bird Educators'

The 'Handbook for Bird Educators' is the result of many workshops conducted over a year before the COVID-19 lockdown by the Mysuru-based Nature Conservation Foundation

Birding can help children to not just learn valuable traits like patience and hone their critical-observation skills, it can also get gadget-obsessed kids of today to tune into the calming world of nature.

To help bird educators to evoke children’s interest in this amazing world of birdwatching, the Mysuru-based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) launched a book titled ‘Handbook for Bird Educators’ on the occasion of Teacher’s Day on September 5.

Birdwatching is considered as a part of citizen science across the world. Besides enjoying nature and finding solace in watching the antics of our feathered friends, the discoveries and findings made by amateur birders have helped many an ornithologist in their scientific work.

This 76-page book has been written by Garima Bhatia, Abhisheka Krishnagopal and Suhel Quader from the NCF. Filled with eye-catching sketches, this handbook is mainly aimed at school teachers and bird educators who wish to encourage children in the age group between 4 and 10 years to take up birdwatching.

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Divided into four chapters, the book also features activities children can do such as drawing birds, bird games, making bird cut-outs, paper collage, bird puppetry, origami, and making toys using clay. Through these playful fun activities, a teacher can pique their natural curiosity in the colourful world of birds.

The book also details how teachers can conduct bird walks and how they can prepare themselves before taking children birding. It also provides guidelines and tips on how to get feedback from participants and how to evaluate a child’s knowledge on birds.

The authors write in the book that there is a growing body of research which indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

They point out that the lack of exposure to nature is “an alarming aspect of modern life” and this leads to what has been described as ‘nature deficit disorder’. This disorder is linked to various childhood problems like a rise in obesity, depression and attention disorders, point out the authors.

This book is the result of many workshops conducted over a year before the COVID-19 lockdown under Early Birds, an initiative of NCF, says Garima Bhatia, one of the authors of the book.

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“The initiative started seven years before as a non-profit effort to develop content, provide training and conduct outreach related to promoting bird-related knowledge and awareness among children and young people. We have conducted 12 in-person workshops for amateur birdwatchers called ‘How to be a birding buddy’, as well as introductory workshops on birds aimed at school teachers before the pandemic,” adds Bhatia, who is also the project manager of Early Bird.

“It was during those workshops we found out that there was a big gap between bird educators and the resources which can be used to bring children closer to birds,” she says.

Bhatia adds that they had wanted to bring all the scattered resources available on the subject under one platform and that was how the book has been conceived and developed.

“The contents were sent to fellow birdwatchers and bird educators to get peer reviewed. It has been created under Common Creatives and hence anyone can use the content for educational purposes. As of now, it can be downloaded for free from the Early Bird website (early-bird.in). Soon we are coming out with hard copy too,” says Bhatia.

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