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Atlanta Audubon to update, expand education programs with anonymous $99,980 gift

atlanta audubon, learning about birds

Atlanta Audubon offers the Learning About Birds Program, which enabled these students at Dresden Elementary School to watch birds with the aid of binoculars. File/Credit: Melanie Furr

By David Pendered

In 2009, the Atlanta Audubon Society launched a program that tailors lessons to a teacher’s curriculum and goes to the school to teach students about birds. Now, the group plans to revise the program with proceeds of a $99,980 gift from a private Atlanta family foundation.

atlanta audubon, learning about birds

Two pupils at Dresden Elementary School watched birds with the aid of binoculars brought to their school as part of the Leaning About Birds program offered by the Atlanta Audubon Society. Credit: Melanie Furr

Learning About Birds is one of six educational programs that are to be revised with proceeds from the gifts , according to a statement from Atlanta Audubon.

The revision will bring Atlanta Audubon’s Learning About Birds program into compliance with state standards for STEM lessons – science, technology, engineering and math.

The current Learning About Birds program helps educators expose students to birds, habitats and conservation. The lessons are aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards in science. They were created with the support of Toyota Together Green and the Georgia Ornitholological Society. A Spanish version was added in 2010.

The update is to align the program with the most recent K-12 Georgia Standards of Excellent. New online resources and lesson plans are to explore topics including local birds, habitat and conservation, according to the statement.

Atlanta Audubon emphasized its focus on expanding its educational programs for students because they will grow up and some will become policy leaders. Ensuring in their appreciation for birds and the need to nurture their environments is an investment in the future.

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s policy makers, planners and developers, and community leaders,” Nikki Belmonte, executive director of Atlanta Audubon, said in the statement. “When we instill a conservation ethic in students through the lens of birds, we provide insurance that habitats that sustain birds, wildlife, and people alike will receive protection.”

atlanta audubon, habitat

Pupils at Boyd Elementary School plant a bush in a garden as part of an Atlanta Audubon program to teach youngsters the value of birds’ habitats. Credit: Daniel Ballard

Atlanta Audubon intends to use the proceeds of the donation to fund the following five programs:

  • “Welcome a new partner school to Atlanta Audubon’s Connecting Students with STEM through Birds program. The selected school will be a federally designated Title I school in an underserved population of metro-Atlanta. This funding will complete a match to existing funding for the program provided by the grants from the Morgens West Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation.
  • “Provide full scholarship support for 10 student participants in Atlanta Urban Ecologists. Scholarship selection will be based on financial need to support students in underserved communities and those who would be unable to participate in the program without support.
  • “Develop a second Atlanta Urban Ecologists course to allow current program graduates to broaden their foundation of knowledge and experiential learning. This extension course would follow the same model of the current Atlanta Urban Ecologists program, introducing students to new environmental partners and coursework over the span of an academic year.
    atlanta audubon, taking wing class

    Five slots are to be added to the Taking Wing class taught by Atlanta Audubon Society to increase the number of teachers aware of the society’s program the teachers could bring into the classroom to teach students about birds, habitat and conservation. These K-8 educators were in the 2017 Taking Wing class. Credit: Melanie Furr

  • “Create five additional slots for K-8 educators to participate in the Taking Wing continuing education program to expand the number of teachers using the Learning About Birds curriculum and teaching methods in their classrooms across metro-Atlanta.
  • “Hire an Education Program Coordinator and contract naturalists to help Atlanta Audubon increase and broaden its community engagement through regular educational programming.”

“We are delighted to receive this grant to help us grow and expand Atlanta Audubon’s education curriculum and programs,” Belmonte said. “Opening the eyes of students to the vast diversity of bird life around them helps impart important skills needed to innovate the conservation solutions of tomorrow.”

This is the Audubon Society’s second grant in as many months.

In July, Atlanta Audubon  won a national grant totaling $23,950 that it will use for two purposes – paying an intern to work in the wildlife sanctuary program, and building a garden in historic Washington Park, Atlanta’s first greenspace dedicated to African Americans.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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