The Bluebird Restoration Project (BRP) worked with the Community Leadership Course (CLC), offered at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, to create a sustainable curriculum for young children to help aid in the restoration of the eastern bluebirds. These students used this opportunity to earn service-learning hours, a required goal set by the University to teach students to apply their knowledge into helping improve the community as a whole, while fostering respect and appreciation for each individual they work with: create, motivate, and inspire. The students, along with the Bluebird Restoration Project, teamed up with the UWEC Children’s Nature Academy (CNA) as a starting ground to bring restoration and understanding to young children and their families in our community. Students working with the CLC were also assisted by federal work study students who were part of the teaching support staff at the CNA to aid the children in this restoration.
In the 1970s, it was found that the bluebird population was decreasing due to lack of wood for nesting, expansion, and modernization of our society, using metal instead of wood to build. With the mission of the BRP being to work with educators, scientists, and enthusiasts into creating a sustainable, fulfilling, and academically enriching environment for our community and for science, it was thought that the best way to expand was to help enthuse learning and restoration from an early age. When the students work with the young children, and record quantitative data, children become “citizen scientists.” The CLC students created a bridge and buffer between participation and understanding, and therefore, created a cadence of responsibility and importance of reinvesting in effective conservation from an education and environmental standpoint.
With the CLC students creating a teachable curriculum, it helped engage the staff and teachers at the CNA to participate with the restoration of the bluebirds. The staff, along with the students working with the BRP, helped teach the children to be “citizen scientists” by working during the summer and school year to watch and record the growth of the bird population in that area. Cornell Lab of Ornithology helped keep records of the population growth after the children at the CNA collected data. From summer 2012 to summer 2013, bird fledglings grew from 42 total fledglings, to 51 fledglings, showing effective conservation.
Each student working with the CLC had to log 30 hours of work in order to gain a service-learning credit with UW-Eau Claire. To do this, the students created a 12-week curriculum to be taught to aid in restoration by bridging children, nature, and technology. Each week, the children at the academy learned information about bluebirds, such as food sources, predators, and vocabulary via activities in the curriculum. Students went out with the children and staff 1-2 days a week to record information to send to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
In a goal to bridge children, nature, and technology, the CLC students also worked with various other online databases to record the progression of the bluebird restoration. ebird helped give a database for children to record observations. YardMap, an online mappings system, allowed for young children to maximize geographical resources. Cornell labs online data system Nestwatch, let the students directly upload nesting stats to Cornell scientists. Outside of bluebird season, children could still watch and record bird data through Project Feeder Watch online.
Overall, there was approximately 460 hours of community service logged by students working with this project, and approximately 1,500 hours working with University professors, CNA staff, and BRP staff. Success of this project was not only made possible by the hours put in by the CLC students and University staff, but also, collaboration with Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Association of Bluebird Society, and Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin.
The Bluebird Restoration Project as a whole helps aid the community in restoration. Cornell Lab of Ornithology confirms that Eau Claire is the first city that has worked with the labs a recording system to incorporate it into a teachable curriculum for youth. The Nature Wildlife Federation also certified the Children’s Nature Academy as a bird habitat. In working with Beaver Creek Reserve in Eau Claire, the Boy Scouts of America, various golf courses around Eau Claire, the Children’s Nature Academy, and the Center for Service-Learning students at UW-Eau Claire, the project helped create an interlinked system of data collection of the restoration of the eastern bluebird.