The Birds in My Neighborhood program promotes outdoor learning and promotes collective learning, scientific observations, supports mental health, and helps children become more familiar with the natural world around them. The program begins a new programmatic year with 34 Chicago public schools.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Huan Song, Director of Communications
Yamys Urbano Valencia, Bilingual PR and Communications Specialist
(Chicago, IL – NOVEMBER 27, 2023) Birds in My Neighborhood® marked a significant milestone as it celebrated its 10th anniversary with a memorable bird walk event on Saturday, November 18th at North Park Village Nature Center. The event, organized by Openlands, attracted over 35 bird enthusiasts, including Openland’s own bird expert, Birds in My Neighborhood Volunteer Coordinator Jorge García and the new President and CEO of Openlands, Michael Davidson.
The Birds in My Neighborhood program, which brings trained volunteers into PreK-5th grade elementary school classrooms for student-led and inquiry-based exploration of birds, has been a cornerstone of environmental education in the region. Over the past decade, the program has engaged more than 200 volunteers, 500 teachers, and 12,000 students, with materials and training available in both English and Spanish. In 2023 alone, the program directly impacted 1,711 students across Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and suburban elementary schools.
The 10th-anniversary bird walk event was a testament to the program’s success and impact. “I’m really happy! This is my first bird walk. It’s a beautiful day and I’m just excited that Openlands is providing this opportunity for the community to get together and enjoy watching some birds while celebrating Birds in My Neighborhood,” said Pablo Rodriguez, a first-time birder and attendee of the bird walk.
The event also provided an opportunity for reflection on the program’s achievements and future aspirations. Jessica Fong, director of education at Openlands, highlighted the program’s success and the challenges ahead, stating, “For the future, some of the challenges we may face will be funding. We are always looking for additional funding to expand the program to more schools. We currently serve over 30 schools, but we would love to include more CPS schools.”
Jorge García, Birds in My Neighborhood Volunteer Coordinator at Openlands, expressed his delight at the event’s success, stating, “It’s great to be back here. I host regular bird walks here during the migration season and it’s good to have a lot of people who are new to both programs, bird walks, and Birds in My Neighborhood. We saw 22 distinct species today, including a fox sparrow, a rusty blackbird, and a great horned owl! It was great to be able to have a chat with the community, not just about birds, but about their habitat and why Chicago is a key place for them and how to find them.”
The 10th-anniversary bird walk event was a testament to the program’s success and impact, bringing together a community of bird enthusiasts and advocates for nature. Openlands remains committed to fostering a deep appreciation for nature and environmental stewardship among students and the broader community through the Birds in My Neighborhood program. For more information about the Birds in My Neighborhood program and opportunities to get involved as a volunteer, visit the Openlands website. Volunteer applications are open until January, 15, 2023.
The volunteer-supported program, which aims to connect urban youth with nature and promote bird education and conservation, is expanding its reach to 34 schools, 20 of which are new to the program and located primarily in underserved areas. One of the selection criteria for this program is whether the school has a high percentage of students from low-income families, according to CPS data.
Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands works across area to advance nature-based solutions to climate change, improve the health and well-being of communities, and create a more verdant region for all.