Yes, I do have some opinions on the matter. A few simple thoughts:
The most important thing to get children (and adults) aware of and
interested in our natural environment and how we interact with it - then
moving through to how and why to study and protect it. Getting interested
in birds is a good way of doing this. It does not have be birds - people
can get there through other perceptual doorways - maybe through frogs,
butterflies, plants and gardening, fish and fishing, even hunting. But
birds are good starters to get children (or hitherto unaware adults)
Birds are very visible - in the daytime, in our parks and gardens, in the
city streets, in farmland and just about all natural habitats (except deep
below ocean surfaces and deep in subterranean systems).
Birds are dynamic - they move about and do things in public that we can
relate to - feeding, fighting, courting, mating, building nests, raising
chicks, getting killed and eaten by other birds, and often making a lot of
noise while doing so.
Birds are variable - with lots of different kinds around, we can compare
them with one another and start asking questions such ?Why do we get some
kinds of birds in this place and different ones in another??
Birds are relatively easy to identify and to monitor - thereby being good
indicators of what is happening with our environment and enabling us to ask
more questions - ?Why are there more lorikeets in city parks these days
compared with 20 years ago?? ?Why don?t I see Grey-crowned Babblers on my
farm as I used to?? Why am I seeing more dead penguins washed up on the
Bird watching and bird study are activities that are open ended - there
will always be things we do not know or understand about birds, always
opportunities for more discoveries and revelations, to explore esoteric
quests to your heart's content, forming a lifetime interest that will
become more richly rewarding the more we put into it.
Birds are inspirational - because they fly, they are constantly used as
symbols of freedom.
Birds are beautiful and fascinating - they draw us to treasure their
presence and to care what happens to them, and thus to care for our
As to the details of HOW to get children interested in the first place - I
suggest doing it gently and allowing children to develop an interest at
their own pace with some strategic and tactical guidance from time to time.
The worst thing, I believe, is to push them to the point where it all
becomes too intense and is no fun any more.
Birds Australia Conservation & Liaison,
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East, VIC 3123, Australia.
Tel: (03) 9882 2622. Fax: (03) 9882 2677.
O/s: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 9882 2677.
Web Homepage: http://www.vicnet.net.au/~birdsaus/