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Bonnie Henderson
As an Audubon in the Schools volunteer, I’ve come to expect certain patterns in the classrooms I visit. I know the mallard duck will be the most popular bird to draw during the habitat lesson (Go Ducks, right?), maybe because the mounted mallard looks so familiar in its naturalistic setting, poised on a log. There will always be one kid, usually a boy, who chooses to draw the crow. I love the crow; museum-mounted and stretched out in its plastic tube, there’s nothing naturalistic about its pose. And I love the kid who picks the crow. “It looks all black, right? But look closer…”

Bonnie Henderson

As an Audubon in the Schools volunteer, I’ve come to expect certain patterns in the classrooms I visit. I know the mallard duck will be the most popular bird to draw during the habitat lesson (Go Ducks, right?), maybe because the mounted mallard looks so familiar in its naturalistic setting, poised on a log. There will always be one kid, usually a boy, who chooses to draw the crow. I love the crow; museum-mounted and stretched out in its plastic tube, there’s nothing naturalistic about its pose. And I love the kid who picks the crow. “It looks all black, right? But look closer,” I always urge the boy, as I make my rounds among the pods of students. “Check it out: Here it’s very black, but here it’s more of a dark gray, sort of a charcoal gray, and here it’s even a little lighter gray, just slightly. And check out those feet!” The boy drawing the crow smiles, because he and I now share a singular appreciation for a bird that seems so common and so monochromatic, but that we know, having taken a deeper look, isn’t either of those things. The other students in the pod eavesdrop on our conversation, then return to drawing their own more colorful birds with a little more attention to detail.

I am not as knowledgeable about birds as some AITS volunteers, but no matter: The point of the program is discovery. Often I find that the kids already understand the concept of habitat and may even know the definition of nocturnal and diurnal. But the feathers, birds, and nests I bring into the classroom prompt them to think for themselves about the connection between form and function and how habitat, behavior, and morphology all interact. The basic-shapes drawing technique we teach gives even the most reluctant young artist an experience of success. Every drawing is different, and every drawing looks like a specific bird. It’s pretty magical.

Often my presentations are scheduled following recess, and invariably one or more kids start out with a sour face or even tears from hurt feelings, apparently from some playground hassle. By the end of the hour, having been led to focus closely on a particular bird or feather for the better part of an hour, closely enough to render it on paper, that child’s mood is just as invariably transformed. Some of the rewards of teaching AITS have very little to do with birds.

 

To schedule an Audubon in the Schools presentation for your class, please contact our scheduling assistant, Doris Bakshi, at AITSLC (at) gmail.com.

Click here to learn more about Audubon in Schools.