Discovering Passions

Sometimes discovering a passion doesn’t happen until late in life. After all, it’s hard to find out you love something without first being exposed to it. Using this as a mission statement Iniciativa Turismo Alternativo de Carazo, a Nicaraguan collective led by Jeaneth García Medrano, embarked on a mission to awaken love for birds in the community. The collective was able to do this by facilitating the interaction of the public with the vast beautiful nature of Nicaragua. Because of their inspiring mission and strong purpose the organization won a mini-grant for Latin American and Caribbean organizations from the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology to support their educational activities in Nicaragua. When reflecting on their goals Jeaneth said it best: “things are better understood when they are applied to something practical”. The collective’s activities were carried out utilizing the International Bird Detectives curriculum, an interactive educational guide developed by the Lab of Ornithology. Emphasis was placed on community monitoring as a tool to gather and provide information on birds, specifically migratory birds. The activities were designed for all age groups: children, teenagers and adults were all invited to participate and to foster a love for birds. 

The workshops were varied and each one was exciting and entertaining. They were developed with the support of students from the Central University of Nicaragua (UCN) Campus Jinotepe and the members of the youth club The Guardians of the Birds of Carazo “Saltapiñuela”. A group of 9th graders came for an activity which involved finding a suitable space in the nearby forest to improve the habitat of the birds living there. They cleaned up trash they found, identified plant species suitable for feeding birds, and cultivated native plants. Things were starting to heat up! Similarly, 3rd and 4th grade children from the Edmundo Román School planted native trees and learned about the habitats of birds in the area. The children were inspiring! These outdoor workshops put nature in a new perspective for the children. The children have always lived surrounded by the amazing biodiversity of Carazo, but prior to the workshops they had not had the opportunity to interact with it to benefit the birds in the area. It was a touching moment for the children who discovered the pleasure of protecting and caring for nature in their backyard.

To continue the activities improving and creating habitats, a school garden was created with our friends from the Edmundo Román School. Boys, girls, teachers and community leaders were all involved in  creating the garden. Everyone was very excited to have a school garden! The children not only planted seeds but took advantage of the opportunity to clean up the area around the school. This is a powerful message that reminds us that by helping birds we also get to improve our community. After this, the participants went to observe birds at El Jicarito a green space, located in the Román Esteban community. The field is beautiful and is abundant in natural and wooded areas, so the birds there are plentiful and diverse. The last workshops related to creating birding habitats were held at the El Sincoyo farm, where the  idea of the Hummingbird Garden was born. This was a wonderful initiative that had the support of a naturalist architect. The garden is expected to be a beautiful space for hummingbirds to gather and enjoy the efforts of the community. Everyone will be able to see them and enjoy their company! The greenery didn’t stop there, as nurseries were also established for gardens, orchards and forests. 

Photo Credits Iniciativa Turismo Alternativo

A series of artistic workshops were organized in collaboration with undergraduate students from the UCN Campus Jinotepe. Throughout these workshops there was a wonderful exchange of knowledge between the children and the university students. It was an opportunity to share information and knowledge about regional birds as well as working as a team to learn more about the birds. The first workshop in the series consisted of painting and drawing and was facilitated by Eli López, an artist and specialist in children’s literature illustration. It was touching to see the children expressing themselves in explosions of color. Throughout the workshop they drew and learned about the colors, shapes, and details of the local birds.

Photo Credits Iniciativa Turismo Alternativo

Another workshop in the series was bird photography. The students from the UCN gave talks and demonstrations on how to photograph birds, sharing techniques and practical information so that the participants would be able to apply them. The third workshop in this series was truly amazing. This workshop was a poetry and story art lesson taught by psychologist Martha Garcia, who helped each child express her love for birds in a beautiful and unique way through poetry. The last workshop in the series was an opportunity for the children to learn about the sounds that birds make, how they trill when they sing in nature, and how their calls change when there is danger. The children realized very quickly that birds are very similar to humans!

Video Credits Iniciativa Turismo Alternativo

We would like to thank Iniciativa Turismo Alternativo and its leader Jeaneth García Medrano, for their effort in organizing all the workshops and putting their energy, heart, and inspiration into this beautiful project. In addition the cooperation of the owners of farms, parks and conservation areas is greatly appreciated. We also thank the “Saltapiñuelas” Youth Bird Observation Club, the Edmundo Román School and the communities that helped make the project a complete success. Finally, we give thanks to the local and professional artists who helped participants discover their love of birds through the arts. Finally, UCN Campus Jinotepe is thanked for its continuous and unconditional support in educational activities for the region.

Written by Diego Valle