It Takes a Village
When it comes to involving teens in bird watching, the women behind the Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) are leading the way. Darlene Sillick and her colleague Paula Ziebarth, both chapter coordinators in Ohio, are strong advocates for teen NestWatchers.
In addition to teaching the field skills necessary to negotiate a nest box trail (e.g., reading a compass, installing boxes, and checking nests), Darlene and her team also teach math skills. They use the Pythagorean theorem to lay out equally-spaced grids of Tree Swallow nest boxes, to maximize nesting opportunities. The youth also engage in community service, such as helping a researcher rebuild his extensive nest box trail after it was destroyed by a storm. Young birders learn plenty of natural history along the way as they help with Purple Martins, Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, Tufted Titmice, House Wrens, Prothonotary Warblers, and other species.
Darlene, Paula, and other advisors of the Ohio Young Birders Club don’t just focus on watching birds, they focus on helping birds. In this way, they are able to move teens from a hobby to a passion. Darlene tells us that she “gave her life to bluebirding and conservation.” But we think that she gives much more than her own time…she gives the next generation the hope and practical skills that it takes to face numerous environmental challenges with a can-do attitude. She is mentoring young scientists who will have the enduring optimism which is required of conservation professionals.
It takes a village to raise the next generation of conservationists. We can all provide something—the car, the Saturday afternoon, the tools, the pizza—to help young people on this path.