Children naturally appreciate the sublime. Pinecones, acorns and all kinds of treasures found outdoors grab their attention. Guiding this curiosity increases their excitement of learning about the world around them.
Birding does not require large investments of time or money. Often a walk down the street or in the park starts a child’s interest in birds. Bird feeders, houses, and walks through known habitats frequently reveal enough birds to create excitement. The excitement grows into questions and quickly adults learn there’s much more to birds than they have answers for. With the help of search engines, bird books, and local experts, a lot of really cool facts can begin more adventures out of doors.
Our own success in birding has come in spurts. Building a starling proof bluebird house was not an immediate success. Attracting sparrows to a bird feeder at times is the norm until that one day something rare is passing by. On the other hand, within 24 hours of putting up a kestrel house, a family of kestrels moved in. A screech owl moved into a house that I built for a pileated woodpecker. Getting our kids excited about birding came easy. That excitement keeps us going.
How does this grow our minds and creativity? Earth sciences and Biology become relevant in the context of nesting, migration, and eating habits, making learning more fun. The process of finding birds makes one more creative in learning the when and where you see the birds. Experimenting with different designs of bird houses and feeders varies the type of birds you see. You can try various forms of bird feed during different times of the year to attract more kinds of birds. I find experimenting with photographing birds a great creative outlet. Often while discussing possible solutions, one of the kids will show startling insight.
Ultimately, learning that success is not immediate and in the expected form we envision is a life lesson everyone needs to be reminded of. However, the excitement of getting there is what life is all about. Guiding kids through this process brings a new excitement of the world around them.