Birding and Birdwatchers — Activity + Journal Entry

from Honors ENGL110: Writing Environmental Justice -- Brooke Stanley -- See full syllabus here 

Below is what one week looks like from my syllabus for ENGL 110-088: Honors Seminar in Composition––Writing Environmental Justice.

On the following pages, you will also see two different asynchronous activity options. (Students choose whether they’d rather do the outdoor or the online option; either is followed by a reflective writing component.)

UNIT TWO: NATURALIST

Tuesday

Reading due: J. Drew Lanham, selections from The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature [Canvas]

Zoom: Discussion of The Home Place

Asynchronous

Reading: Sarah Maslin Nir, “How 2 Lives Collided in Central Park, Rattling the Nation”

Listening: Short Wave podcast episode (12 min), “#BlackBirdersWeek Seeks to Make the Great Outdoors Open to All”
OR you can read the written transcript of the podcast episode here

Other activities:
1. Pick one of these two activity options. Look at both options in advance (at least several days before the deadline), and choose based on what is accessible and feels safe and interesting for you. Either activity includes a prompt for a Journal Entry #2: Birding and Birdwatchers.

o Outdoor option

o Online option

Birding and Birdwatchers: Activity + Journal Entry #2

Outdoor Option

For this outdoor activity option, you will go birdwatching! You will then write to reflect on your experience, in dialogue with our readings and activities from this unit. (Note: Choose between this outdoor option or the online option, based on what is comfortable and accessible for you.)

Be sure to do the short reading and listening for today, before you start this activity.

1. Get ready
• Download the Merlin Bird ID cell phone app from the Cornell Ornithology Lab (free and available in your app store, or click here)
• Play around with the app to familiarize yourself with how to ID a bird. (Check out the recorded bird calls too!)
Plan a location in advance: pick an outdoor place to spend an hour or so observing birds.

Consider one of these spots:
o Outside near your home or around campus––see what you can find by sitting outside early in the morning, or by walking out your front door! You don’t need to go far. o Woods on the north end of Newark campus (Pomeroy Trail)
o Any of these Important Bird Areas (check out each link to see what birds to look for):
In Delaware (full list here), e.g.:

John Heinz National Wildlife Reserve at Tinicum (in southwest Philadelphia) (refuge website)
o You can look up Audubon’s list of Important Birds Areas in any US state, here

o Look into outdoor recreation areas near wherever you live

• Decide when to go
o I recommend birding early in the morning––you’ll see more.
o Give yourself about an hour (or longer, if you want) to be present in your location.

• Tips:
o Please be safe: consider bringing a buddy, make a plan to go with a classmate if you like, etc. Be mindful of your own comfort zone.
o If you have binoculars, you might enjoy bringing them, but it’s not essential. o Bring a notebook, to jot down what birds you saw
o Optional: If you could use a little more guidance about how to get started birdwatching, check out How to Find a Bird and/or How to Identify Birds from Audubon, and/or listen to Backyard Birding 101 from Short Wave.

2. Go birding!
• Try to ID any birds you see with the Merlin App

Jot down which birds you identified (or just descriptions of what you saw, other impressions about your experience, etc) in your notebook

Optional: Take a short video, photos, and/or audio recording while you are birding to give us a sense of the space, your experience, birds you saw, etc. Include this with your journal entry (below).

3. Write Journal Entry #2: Birding and Birdwatchers, considering these questions. (You don’t necessarily have to address all of them.)

  • Identify which activity option you did (outdoor or online).
  • Describe your birdwatching experience. Where did you go? What did you see? How did you feel?
    o How did birdwatching change the way that you interacted with the outdoor space (as compared to if you weren’t birdwatching)? How did it change your attention?
  • In this unit we’ve heard from a number of naturalists (Elizabeth Bradfield, J. Drew Lanham, Chelsea Connor, Christian Cooper) about how identity and societal expectations affect their experiences with the outdoors, and in some cases with working in a STEM field.

o First, discuss what one or more of these naturalists expresses on this topic. (I’d recommend using and analyzing quotations for this part.)
o Then, if you feel comfortable, reflect on how race, gender/sexuality, and/or other aspects of identity impact your experience of the outdoors, in dialogue with any of the readings or activities from this unit.
• After doing these activities, what’s your reaction to what happened between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper in Central Park?
o What can we learn here about expectations in America about using nature for recreation (or science)?
o How might we change those expectations?

Birding and Birdwatchers: Activity + Journal Entry #2

Online Option

In this activity, you will explore several different uses of the internet to augment access to wildlife or “nature.” (Note: Choose between this online option or the outdoor option, based on what is comfortable and accessible for you.)

Be sure to do the short reading and listening for today, before you start this activity.

  1. Watch this short Video of Corina Newsome explaining #BlackBirdersWeek
  2. Spend some time exploring these hashtags on Twitter: a. #BlackBirdersWeek b. #BlackHikersWeek c. #BlackInNature
  3. The Cornell Lab maintains a number of Bird Cams, i.e. livestream cameras where you can watch nesting sites and feeders where you’re likely to see birds, all from your computer.
    1. Spend some time checking out different Live Cams at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/
    2. If you’re not seeing anything interesting live, you can also scroll down to the pre- recorded Video Highlights. (Hint: live cams may be more or less interesting depending on what time it is in their time zone.)
  4. Write Journal Entry #2: Birding and Birdwatchers, considering these questions. (You don’t necessarily have to address all of them.)

o Identify which activity option you did (online or outdoor).
o Write up some of what you found in exploring the hashtags above. What surprised you, or stuck out to you? What patterns did you notice? What did you learn?
You can quote and cite tweets! Click here and scroll down to “A Tweet” for MLA citation rules.

o In this online activity, you’ve looked at pages that are all using the internet to augment access to the outdoors, but in very different ways. Compare the use of online culture in Steps 1 and 2 (social media) with that in Step 3 (Bird Cams):

What does each prioritize, or what are its goals? What does each accomplish effectively, and what are its limitations?
How did you react to each part of the activity? Or, what did you find most interesting about these online phenomena? What spoke to you?

o In this unit we’ve heard from a number of naturalists (Elizabeth Bradfield, J. Drew Lanham, Chelsea Connor, Christian Cooper) about how identity and societal expectations affect their experiences with the outdoors, and in some cases with working in a STEM field.

First, discuss what one or more of these naturalists expresses on this topic. (I’d recommend using and analyzing quotations for this part.)
Then, if you feel comfortable, reflect on how race, gender/sexuality, and/or other aspects of identity impact your experience of the outdoors, in dialogue with any of the readings or activities from this unit.

o After doing these activities, what’s your reaction to what happened between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper in Central Park?