Service Learning: Alexandra Coen
After a little temporary hiatus, the bluebird lady is back to blogging! I am so excited to share with you someone very special, and who was such a vital aspect to our team this winter. Allie Coen was interested in working with the Bluebird project, since learning about it from her mother, Lisa Coen (a head teacher at the University of Wisconsin’s-Children’s Nature Academy). After learning about Allie’s excellent written communicative skills, we knew that she could help us with some of our writing projects. With Allie’s help and leadership, as well as the help of Benita Wagner (UWEC, Center for Service-Learning Coordinator), our team was able to apply to the President’s Honor Roll, which recognizes schools, organizations, and teams of people for their social outreach and volunteerism in their community. Without Allie there to guide us, this project may not have come to fruition! She is such a shining light, and her focus is what is going to help her succeed in whatever she does in the future.
From Allies perspective, here is her experience working with the Bluebird team:
This January I had the privilege to work with Shelly Sutley and the Bluebird Restoration Project as we worked with UW-Eau Claire Service Learning. Our goal was to help write project descriptions of what the Bluebird Restoration Project has done for the University; in hopes to gain recognition from the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This was an interesting task for me because while I have done some small volunteer work with Shelly before, I was unaware of the impact the project has created to help the Eau Claire community.
When I started working for Shelly I had hoped to gain work experience outside of what my college, Gustavus Adolphus, could offer during our January break. I learned what an intricate system Shelly had created with the Bluebird Restoration Project. Through the experience I talked with Beaver Creek Nature Reserve, Benita Wagner at UWEC, and with people at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I learned the history of all the trails at different golf courses in Eau Claire, and the trail at the Children’s Nature Academy. I also was able to learn about all the background work that went into running the Bluebird Restoration Project. My learning included: looking at plans of nest boxes, exploring educational plans for children in order to develop an awareness and environmental responsibility, and interpreting nest box data. I read vocabulary lists and dozens of facts about song birds and looked at the of thousands of volunteer hours put into bluebird trails by community members. Like most projects, there were some roadblocks along the way, but I was taught how to overcome them by maintaining a positive attitude.
One of the most impressive and fascinating things I learned while working with Shelly regarded the connection that she created between children and technology. I was impressed with the system that was used to record fledgling increase with Cornell Labs and Nestwatch. The system the Bluebird Restoration Project had created for recording was simple and descriptive, and I had little problem finding data on my own. I imagine that this would be easy for a child to use.
While at times my experience was overwhelming, there were always signs of hope that kept us going. One of which was when I was working on the President’s Honor Roll, right after the first “Polar Vortex”. Shelly thought she saw bluebirds in a neighborhood nest box, which was strange for this time of year. After some research and discussion with other members of the bluebird community, we concluded that the birds were in fact bluebirds that had overwintered. This got me thinking. If bluebirds can survive this frigid temperature, I could finish the Presidents Honor Roll application. This past January I learned more than I ever hoped for, and I am looking forward to working with the Bluebird Restoration Project again in the future. Breath. Believe. Be.