Don's Jersey Birding: Getting Young People Out Birding
Patrick’s love of nature seemed to grow more with every outdoor activity he was introduced to. Bergen County Audubon Society has been getting involved with environmental clubs at the local schools. Patrick thinks that we are on the right track, but that it would be a big plus if the clubs did more programs about birds. Share |
Photo Credit: Don Torino
by Don Torino
Mankind has gone through millennia with many unanswered questions, such as, “What is the meaning of life?” and “What was the best thing before sliced bread?” Probably the most perplexing question of all, the question that has eluded prophets and wise men throughout the ages is, “How do you get more young people out birding?”
We at Bergen County Audubon Society have attempted to solve this mystery with minimal success, but I have pondered on this difficult problem for many a sleepless night and have come up with a revolutionary concept. I decided that I would ask a “young” person what we should do about the future of birding (and by a young person I don’t mean someone who doesn’t need a bathroom at every birding spot, I mean a real young person!)
Fortunately, we happen to have an enthusiastic young birder in our midst named Patrick Carney. He is a wonderful young man in the 7thgrade at River Dell Middle School in River Edge who not only loves to get out birding, but also writes for his school newspaper and is on his way to becoming a top-notch wildlife photographer.
I asked Patrick what he thought it would take to get his generation out birding.
“I feel like I was always interested in birds and nature, and I can’t remember what got that interest started,” Patrick said. “Right now, the only birds most teens know about are in a cell phone app called ‘Angry Birds’. I think it is important to get kids out into nature more,” Patrick continued. “If there were more family hikes, then more young people would get hooked.”
Chestnut-sided Warbler seen at a recent Bergen County Audubon field trip.
Photo Credit: Patrick Carney
“When I was a Tiger Scout, I went to nature centers with my den,” he said. After going to them, I would ask my parents if I could go on more nature hikes. Now I go birding almost every weekend. If a family doesn’t have time to drive their kids all over the place, they can at least put up a bird feeder to bring wildlife to their yard so that their kids can discover the kinds of birds that are right in their neighborhood. We have seen things like baby birds hatch and squirrels carried off by hawks right in our own backyard.”
Patrick also thinks that our schools have an important role to play in getting our kids out birding. He believes that there should be more nature-related field trips.
“When I was in fourth grade,” he told me, “I had a great teacher who came up with an idea for an outdoor classroom. Everyone involved had fun. It was much more enjoyable than studying Biology from a textbook.”
Patrick Carney with a group of young birders on a recent Bergen County Audubon field trip.
Photo Credit: Mike Malzone
“Most environmental clubs in schools focus on recycle, recycle, recycle,” Patrick said. “As important as recycling is, there should be more than just that. School environmental clubs should have more field trips that help everyone learn about the connection between birds and the whole ecosystem.”
So there we have it. Patrick has laid out a plan and sent an important message for every group that has been struggling to get more young people out birding. It will take the whole community working together (parents, schools and environmental organizations) to help spark the love of nature in young people and give them the gift of a lifetime of passion and wonder.
If you love birding, volunteer to take a class at your local school, church or scout group out birding or donate a birdfeeder to a school environmental club. In the coming months, Bergen County Audubon Society will be working with Patrick and implementing his ideas to help get new young birders out into the field. The future of birding and the environment will depend on all of us to make this happen. Patrick did his job, now we need to do ours.
Don Torino is the Education Chairperson for Bergen County Audubon Society.
Patrick’s love of nature seemed to grow more with every outdoor activity he was introduced to.
Bergen County Audubon Society has been getting involved with environmental clubs at the local schools. Patrick thinks that we are on the right track, but that it would be a big plus if the clubs did more programs about birds.