Written by Chris Boyle Friday, 03 May 2013 00:00
A group of civic-minded young men and women proved without a doubt recently that protecting wildlife certainly is, in fact, for the birds.
A group of fourth graders from Drexel Avenue School in Westbury, creative winners in an ecology sign contest designed to educate the public about local birds, got to see their message given a public forum when their signs were installed along the beachfront at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center at Jones Beach.
Richard Santangelo, the “For the Birds” Education Coordinator for the Roosevelt Sanctuary, said that the event marked the official launch of the “Be a Good Egg” campaign, a social marketing strategy that the Sanctuary is using to bring awareness to beach-nesting birds on Long Island. “For the Birds” is a unique environmental education program that gets kids interested in nature through a series of classroom lessons, field trips and the creation of local community bird habitats.
The students involved with the “Be a Good Egg” program conducted research on local beach-nesting birds- in this case, the Piping Plover, Least Tern, and the American Oystercatcher. In addition, the kids also learned about the birds’ environments, and designed hand-drawn signs to teach beach-goers to share the beach with their feathered neighbors this summer.
“We introduced it as a contest, and we chose eight signs in all,” Santangelo said. “We sent those signs to a company and had them professionally re-made, and we’ll be installing them at the beach here today.”
Kerri Dikun, Long Island Bird Conservation Coordinator for Audubon New York, said that the signs the students are installing should greatly help to keep local birds safe from reckless members of the public.
“During the beach-nesting bird season, there’s a lot of string fencing that goes up to protect nesting areas so people don’t step on their eggs and the birds aren’t disturbed,” Dikun said. “It’s an ongoing problem, so that’s why we’re trying to use the kids’ signs. Usually government signs are harsh and people see them so often that they tune them out, but the kids’ signs are nice and bright and colorful, more friendly, and they catch more attention.”
Brandon Guevara was the Grand Prize winner of the sign contest, and he hopes that beach-goers this summer pay heed to the message that he and his classmates put their hearts into.
“I got the idea from my sign after seeing an exhibit about the Piping Plover,” he said. “It feels great to win the contest because when they put the sign up, people will see that birds are cute and you shouldn’t hurt them or they will become extinct and you won’t see them anymore.”
Patricia Matarazzo, Library Media Specialist at Drexel Avenue School, oversaw the children’s informative fundraising and sign-making efforts.
“We are so honored, because the kids’ signs will be posted here as permanent structures,” she said. “Learning about and protecting wildlife is an ongoing kind of thing at our school, and the kids are excited about doing their research and becoming advocates for nature and to help to enlighten people.”
Other students from Drexel did their part to help the birds in a different way. Millie Barahona headed up the creation and sale of blue “Be a Good Egg” bracelets to her fellow classmates, helping to raise money to donate toward the building of protective enclosures for the birds.
“Me and my friends created the bracelets and started selling them, and soon we rose over $700 to save the birds,” she said.
Student Katelen Valdez actually put together an iMovie video presentation to help educate her classmates at Drexel Avenue on the plight of the avian community on Long Island.
“I made the iMovie to help save the Piping Plover, and it showed pictures and taught kids not to litter on the beach,” Valdez said. “It felt really cool and amazing because we’re helping birds. We don’t want them to get hurt, we want them to be safe, and to have a natural home and life.”