When I was a kid, I loved collecting things. Baseball cards and bottle caps were my top items. I spent hours combing roadsides for discarded bottle caps, looking for unique finds to add to my collection. I swapped, traded, and sorted baseball cards with my friends, developing sets of All-Star players and complete Major League teams. I also loved looking through books which listed specific breeds of dogs, or species of animals—like birds. My brother and I would declare our “favorite” dog breed, dinosaur, or bird. My favorite bird was the Black-and-White Warbler. Although I had never seen one, for some reason I found this bird’s understated, but racy markings, appealing. My brother favored the Purple Martin, perhaps due to the fact that his favorite color was purple.
Psychologists and sociologists have many theories on why kids collect and sort things. I’ll leave the theorizing to the professionals and say that if you asked most kids why they engage in these types of activities they would say it’s just about having fun or play time. As an educator, I’ll add to that by saying that when a child collects and curates things, it teaches skills in personal responsibility, social interaction, organization, reading, and math.
This past fall one of our Board Members from the Penobscot Valley Chapter of Maine Audubon, Bob Milardo, made a comment that stuck with me. He said that most kids could tell you the make and model of the car you’re driving, but not what bird species are in their backyard. Bob went on to say that this doesn’t bode well for the future of our communities, both locally and globally. I agree.
At a time when kids are spending more of their free time indoors in virtual worlds than outdoor in the real world, we need to find ways to help connect them to the outdoors. Birds can be a great way to do this! Tapping into kids’ natural inclinations and skills with collecting and identifying, birding is an ideal activity that draws on the natural interest of young people. Birds come in a dizzying array of colors and sizes, and they have superpowers like dive-bombing at hundreds of miles per hour and surviving in subzero temperatures. What’s not to like?
So tell the young people in your life and get them to join us for the Young Birders Club at Fields Pond, which takes flight on the second Saturday of each month, staring on March 14. It’s open to kids ages 10-16. No prior experience or equipment is necessary. Come collect, sort, and have fun!