The education component of Linking Communities was developed as one of the three primary objectives for moving conservation forward within and between communities that share common migratory birds. Education is broken into two parts; one formal education pertaining to K-12 and two, higher education associated with universities at each of the linking focus areas.
The following information relates to the K-12 portion of linking education. Educators and community representatives’ interested in providing local environmental education opportunities, especially as it pertains to migratory birds have been active in all three countries within participating communities. Since the inception of education in the Linking Communities Program, focus has been placed on developing relationship between educators within communities and between countries. Participants initially decided on using the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Shorebird Sister School Program as a common environmental education tool. The Shorebird Sister School Program offered two distinct advantages. The education material was provided both in English and Spanish and the focus was on shorebirds, the primary migratory bird group of interest.
The Shorebird Sister School Program has been used to connect schools, students, and educators in the Marismas Nacionales and the Great Salt Lake and to a limited degree in Canada. We have sponsored teacher exchanges in the past and schools have partnered to exchange information about birds and habitats as well as cultures. Added involvement with environmental educators at specific communities and wildlife refuges has strengthened Linking’s capacity to move education into local communities. This is especially the case at the Great Salt Lake and in central Saskatchewan. With the added involvement of nonprofit and institutional education programs we are poised to continue the tri-national education connection with greater strength and to extend the involvement to work on collaborative student projects.
Tri national teacher exchanges have used the three site connections to promote the importance of global and cross-cultural stewardship. The exchanges involved provide training in additional environmental education programs and afford participants the synergistic opportunities to share curriculum and teaching practices and connect the students in all three sites in joint projects.
Educators in the program involve students in bird festivals, field experiences and sharing artwork and culture at all three sites. Program educators have been recognized internationally and within their own country for their participation in environmental education and range wide bird conservation education.