Published Aug. 9, 2001, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Bird flashcards get a technological twist.”
2014 Update: I was able to successfully make the CD of flashcards and other bird education information with the help of about 40 other people volunteering their expertise. These days, even though there is so much information about birds online, my Audubon chapter still uses 8.5 x 11-inch flashcards occasionally when teaching bird i.d. classes.
By Barb Gorges
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a “Wildlife Worth the Watching” grant to Audubon Wyoming for a joint educational project titled, “Wyoming Bird Flashcards.”
So yours truly, the (unpaid) project coordinator, has to get to work.
The first task is to find photos of 30 more species of birds.
Back in January I perused Game and Fish’s slide bank and found images of the 55 other species we’ll be considering as “Wyoming’s most noticeable birds.”
If you or anyone you know takes pictures of birds, please call or e-mail me for the list. I can use clear slides, prints and maybe even digital images (I’ll have to check with the technical guru).
Everyone who donates an image will be listed in the credits.
“Flashcards?” you’re thinking. Well, with a twist.
When I first started visiting classrooms to introduce birds before leading field trips, I took a slide projector. But it took almost as long to set up the equipment as it did to give the talk. And it’s hard to interact with a class when they are sitting in the dark.
So a few years ago when someone gave me an Audubon calendar, I started my collection of 8×10-inch bird flashcards.
Unlike slides, flashcards can be viewed without equipment. They can be passed around, grouped by type, compared side by side, put up on the board or set up in a tree.
As I was blowing up pictures from my field guide one day at Kinko’s to fill in some gaps (copies for educational or personal use are legal), I ran into Chris Madson, editor of “Wyoming Wildlife,” and I had a flash of inspiration.
Game and Fish probably had lots of bird pictures! Perhaps we could prepare bird flashcards to distribute to educators around the state.
But I found out traditional printing of large color pictures on cardstock is prohibitively expensive. Even the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, when I talked to them, said it was too costly.
Then I had another “aha” moment, derived from my student teaching experience. Modern textbooks now provide worksheet and test masters on CD-ROM so the teacher can print out what they need, and perhaps print out flashcards of just the birds the class will study before a field trip.
CD images can be viewed on computer, of course, so teachers may choose to use them in the computer lab, and community educators can use them with computers hooked up to projectors, as I have done at Laramie County Community College.
So I started looking into the technical angle of producing CDs. I took a giant shortcut last October when I attended the Wyoming Literacy Conference here in Cheyenne and met Joe LaFleur, the author of the Better Birdwatching CD-ROMs.
He did all the technical work on his CDs, and he is a wildlife biologist. What luck!
Then I asked Audubon Wyoming to be the organizational sponsor when I applied for grants and so here we are.
The project will be more than just 85 pretty bird pictures. We’ll also have information on each species, a list of birding hotspots around the state, species lists for different habitat types (so teachers can figure out what birds to study for their area or field trip) and a list of bird-related resources and how to find them. This is where birders around the state can contribute to the project.
However, instructional materials are practically useless in Wyoming these days if they haven’t been translated as ways to fulfill state educational standards.
So along with flashcard activity ideas and lesson plans will be correlations to standards, not only in science, but geography, math, language arts, and maybe even music. Anyone out there working on their Master’s in curriculum design need a project?
Finally, what Game and Fish has learned is, don’t send valuable instructional materials out to every school or teacher, unsolicited. It’s like giving away puppies. They’ll be perceived as more valuable and more desirable, and treated better, if you ask, say, $25 each.
So Audubon Wyoming and Game and Fish plan to show teachers how to use the flashcards in workshops offered for recertification credit next summer and every participant will get their own Wyoming Bird Flashcards CD.
Each Wyoming school district will get one for their instructional materials center, too, as well as Audubon chapters, bird clubs and any education-minded, non-profit organizations that request one.
Perhaps we’ll have to send a CD to Cornell.
I love synergy, when seemingly unrelated things we know suddenly realign and combine to become something new and useful.