Tag Archives: birds

A Visit To A Garifuna School & Appreciating An Environmental Hero

From Julie

After our stay near Pico Bonito and Los Micos national parks outside of La Ceiba in Honduras, Allison, Lucy, and I traveled along the northern Caribbean coast to the town of Tela. Mark Pouchie, a guide with Garifuna Tours was stuck with us over the following three days because we would not let him go. He has lived in Tela for years and knows just about everything and everyone. A link to Garifuna Tours-request Mark Pouchie to be your guide!

The town of Tela in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014A view of the Caribbean and the town of Tela from our lodging at Hotel Maya.

As with all local communities we have been visiting in the Mesoamerican region, one of our top priorities is to meet with teachers and schoolchildren. We met with a talented teacher, Carla, and her niece who is a translator, Cinthia. We had a wonderful dinner together discussing their one-health awareness needs. The next morning we met Carla and Cinthia at Carla’s school despite it being a weekend.

With Carla and Cinthia at Centro de Educacion Basica Esteban Guardiola, Tela, Honduras ©Art of Conservation 2014With Carla, Cinthia, and children at Centro de Educacion Basica Esteban Guardiola.

Mark drove us to a nearby Garifuna village at Triunfo de la Cruz to met Carla and Cinthia. The school has 614 students, 26 teachers, 1 computer lab, and as Carla repeated more than once…an empty room for Art of Conservation programming!

After a fantastic visit to the school and the Garifuna village, Mark took Lucy, Allison, and I to an art studio called El Aura. The studio itself is a beautiful wooden Caribbean small house with paintings – mostly acrylic – from floor to ceiling.

With artists at El Aura Galeria de Arte in Tela, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Honduran artists, Cruz and Lopez, share with Allison and Lucy at El Aura art studio in Tela.

I purchased three small canvas paintings of beach and mangrove scenes which warm my soul during the cold Iowa winter I am experiencing.

Our next stop was just outside the town to the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. The Visitors Center is inspiring. Walls of posters provide excellent information on the biodiversity of the region. The grounds display trees of many species and abundant birds species.

Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in Tela, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Informative posters exhibited at Lancetilla Botanical Garden visitors center.

Chills ran down my spin when Mark began telling us about a Honduran environmental activist named Jeanette Kawas. The fate of Ms. Kawas has the unfortunate resemblance of another famous woman who did her best to study and protect the Critically Endangered mountain gorillas, Dian Fossey. Jeanette Kawas was murdered in 1995 for her fight to stop illegal deforestation and to protect the Tela bay region. Two armed men shot her and to this day no one has been arrested for the crime.

Jeannette Kawas National Park. Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Jeanette Kawas National Park

We arrived at Jeanette Kawas National Park by boat. After jumping onto the beach we hiked through the rainforest, spotted Howler Monkeys, discovered animal tracks, and contemplated the brave acts of a brave woman. If not for her vision, the area could possibly be denuded of its natural beauty and significance and populated with a long string of hotels and development.

Garifuna Tours Guide Mark at Jeannette Kawas NP. Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Guide Mark explaining so much great information about this special place in the Mesoamerican Region.

Snorkling, strolling on the beach, and a fresh coconut before getting back on the boat to Tela made our day one of my favorites!

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For The Birds

From Julie Ghrist

We have spent many evenings and weekends recently painting birdhouses which were built at the AoC office. Because of limited classroom time our students didn’t get the opportunity to decorate the houses themselves, maybe next time.

Preparing a nice bird house. Art of Conservation 2013A student prepares a birdhouse by putting grasses inside.

This is truly an experiment! Birdhouses are nowhere to be seen in these parts of Northern Rwanda. My team and I think it’s a worthwhile experience nevertheless.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Students look for perfect branches to hang their houses.

After lively discussions, we made our way outside to the school woodlots we’ve established over the years.

In the trees. Art of Conservation 2013With a GoPro on his head, a student reaches for more birdhouses from below.

A ladder was propped up against trees as well as a little climbing – whatever the mode of ascension – the school playgrounds and woodlots started looking so beautiful with the new houses.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Little Lititia, in the foreground, is not an AoC student but seems to be with us always!

Tapping Into Splendid Imagination Before Planting Trees

From Julie Ghrist

In June, Allison and Cheryl (AoC’s ED and Board Member respectively) arrived from the US while photographer friend Andrew joined us in Rwanda from the UK. All travelers were willing and able to help the team in all ways possible. Our first afternoon together was at the office and included practicing our ‘becoming trees’ exercise. Cheryl practices movement with dedication so with Valerie the two were the most exquisitely inspirational teachers for this exercise.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013At the office, Valerie guides us in a creative exercise of imagining we are trees.

In the classroom, asked to find space in a rather crowded classroom Cheryl and Valerie guide the children in various stages of a tree. Beginning as a seed to imagining our toes are the roots and our skin the bark to our fingers leaves fluttering in the wind. Our arms are strong branches which monkeys, gorillas, and insects can move upon.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl and Valerie inspire children to consider themselves as a seed in the ground to a grown tree.

Fully energized the children race out of the classroom to plant trees.

Fun lessons. Art of Conservation 2013Students bring along bat and monkey puppets, spiders, and more to plant trees.

Animals in the Virungas: African Pygmy Kingfisher Art

From Eric

My team and I are so impressed by the way our students use their skill and imagination to create great pictures of the two birds we took a close look at recently – Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird and African Pygmy Kingfisher. Their engagement in their work tells us they understand that the Virungas is not only habitat for mountain gorillas but for other many animals.

Please enjoy their pictures below.
Watercolors of the African Pygmy Kingfisher created by AoC students.

Watercolor of the African Pygmy Kingfisher created by an AoC student.

Watercolors of the African Pygmy Kingfisher created by AoC students.

Watercolor of the African Pygmy Kingfisher created by an AoC student.

Watercolors of the African Pygmy Kingfisher created by AoC students.

Stay tuned.

Animals in the Virungas: Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird Art

From Eric

After Innocent’s great discussion with our students on the Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird I ask them to follow my directions and have fun drawing and painting the bird.

Children’s pictures of a Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird.

We think it is important to remind our students that they live in a unique and vital place on Earth so we searched for a bird that is very very special to where we live. The Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird is endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley which we are apart of so we went with this bird.

Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbirds

Experimenting with shape and design, our students come up with more varieties of Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbirds.

Animals in the Virungas: Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird & African Pygmy Kingfisher Discussion

From Innocent

Because mountain gorillas share their habitat with many other fantastic animals, today we look at the importance of birds in our ecosystem.

I open our discussion with a look at a variety of birds by showing our students Bird Songs From Around The World by Les Beletsky.

Students listen to bird calls using a hand-held device. The Gorilla Doctors spoke to the children prior to recess, hence the face masks.

Next we take a close look at the Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird, endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. Some of our students share that they see this sunbird in gardens feeding on nectar from flowers, insects, and spiders. The also share folklore such as when a person pierces or puckers his/her lips emulating a Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird’s long and curved bill it’s a sign that he/she wants to insult you. This lovely bird has a broad brilliant red band across its chest, black bill, legs, and feet.

A student holds a mask made by Eric and Eusebe of a Rwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird.

Our next bird, the African Pygmy Kingfisher, impresses a lot of our students particularly when it comes to different names Rwandans attribute to it. According to geographic areas of the country: Murobyi, Nyiramurobyi, Nyiramurobori,and Rushoshwe are just a few of the local names given to this bird. I stress that to be able to distinguish African Pygmy Kingfisher from other kingfishers, we need to notice its blue back extending down to tail and a dark-blue crown when it is an adult.

Using colored tissue paper and glue, children create their own sunbirds and kingfishers on paper.

Now it’s time to put our learning into creative expression with colored-tissue paper and watercolors.

Students follow Eric’s direction for their watercolor paintings. Samples of their work to follow in Eric’s blog coming up next.

I ask our children what they think they can do to protect the birds we studied today and I’m very impressed by their response, “We want to respect ourselves and all living things!”

More soon.

Life Cycles: Ants, Butterflies, Frogs

With plastic life cycle stages of butterflies and ants and a set of evolving tadpoles, we begin today’s lesson.
Life Cycles of an ant. AoC 2010 Rwanda.Our student with a plastic ant. The egg, larva, and pupa are filtering somewhere around the room.

Looking at butterflies from around the world. Art of Conservation, 2010. RwandaKids examine an index of butterflies of the world.

Butterflies, Frogs, Bugs, and Birds by Art of Conservation students. 2010.A drawing collection of evolving tadpoles, frogs, ants, butterflies, plus birds.

Learning the life cycle of a frog-drawing a tadpole. Art of Conservation, 2010. RwandaStudents draw a tadpole with legs.

Drawing a butterfly.  AoC 2010 Rwanda.After learning about the different stages of the butterfly, our student draws an adult butterfly.

Looking At, Listening To & Drawing Birds

We ask the kids, “What are some of the tools used by bird-watchers?” Students have fun familiarizing themselves with binoculars for the first time during our recent conservation education class with birds as our topic.

Student using binoculars at Nyange Primary School. Rwanda. AoC 2010Student Jean-Pierre views through the binoculars. He faces the Virunga Massif-the chain of volcanoes-in search of mountain gorillas, bushbucks, forest buffaloes, and forest elephants living in the far-off dense vegetation.

Judith with binoculars. AoC 2010 Rwanda.Student Judith gets comfortable using binoculars.

Next we listen to the sounds of birds with a book called Bird Songs From Around The World by Les Beletsky featuring songs of 200 birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Looking and listening to birds of the world. AoC 2010 RwandaLooking at the threatened Grey Crowned Crane, the kids dial the number of the bird and press the button to hear its call. This is Uganda’s national bird. Local restaurants here clip their wings and clandestinely serve them to requesting customers.

Pressing a button to hear the sounds of birds.  AoC 2010 Rwanda.Using another gadget called Birdsong Identiflyer students listen to more calls. The crescendoing song of the White-Browed Robin-Chat receives lots of laughs as we are all very familiar with it.

Time to draw.

Drawing birds at Art of Conservation. Rwanda 2010.Using resource material and/or imagination, students are asked to create pictures of birds.

Looking at bird book.  Art of Conservation Rwanda 2010Students look through a field book and are amazed at the big collection of bird species.

Once I get time to scan and Photoshop their great drawings, I’ll share them with you.

Drawing Surprise Creatures

Ana, thanks for your recent comment. We are happy you liked the safari through time lessons.

After taking a quick look at amazing shapes, sizes, and colors of birds, frogs, and butterflies, we asked students to let their imagination run and create surprise creatures.

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One student draws a head, another student a body, and last the legs and feet.

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She must have some creative and funny thoughts going on – let’s see what comes out on paper.

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Creatures #1.

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Creatures #2.

Art for Gorillas is taking a brief break – off to the Egyptian desert – back with you mid-October.

Thank You Peter! Plus Birds, Frogs, and Butterflies

Peter, thank you very much for your September 28th donation of $110! One of the brilliant things about Wildlife Direct is that the blogs allow us to get our messages out there and raise funds while we continue to work at the grassroots level. Thanks so much for tuning in to the blog, Peter. We greatly appreciate your much needed support. Soon, Rwanda’s schoolchildren will be let out of school for the year. They take their national exams in October and then return in January 2010 for a new academic year. As we follow the government run public school calendar, Art of Conservation’s 2009 classes are quickly coming to a close as well. For this week’s class, AoC students take their final exam which covers the year’s conservation lessons, and then look and listen to the sights and sounds of birds, frogs, and butterflies.

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Kids gasp when they see the abundance of bird species shown in bird field guides. We look for Rwandan birds like ibis, turaco, bee-eater, robin-chat, and sunbirds.

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“Bird Songs From Around The World” by Les Beletsky, an audio book that delighted students, features songs of 200 birds from around the world.

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Our classroom is filling with the beautiful songs of birds and frogs. Here, the boys are using a thing called an “Identiflyer Guide” with a “Frogs SongCard.”

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We discuss bird and nature watching etiquette and try out binoculars.

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More oohs and aahs while looking at “Butterflies Of The World.”

Again, thank you Peter.