2020 has been a year like no other, filled with unprecedented challenges, closures, and change. Even in the face of disruptions this year, Audubon staff in Maryland have continued to successfully engage communities, foster partnerships, and implement conservation activities across the state. As the pandemic created challenges to delivering programs, our teams quickly adapted and developed creative solutions, facilitated through the latest technology.
Below we bring you a recap of some of those victories. With inspiration and hope, we look ahead to what’s to come in 2021.
Patterson Park Audubon Center
Educators at Patterson Park Audubon Center adapted creatively to the challenges of the year, using new technology to safely offer nature-based learning to help students and families experience Baltimore through a wildlife lens. With the Green Leaders afterschool program for middle school students, the team continued to train youth in engaging neighbors to take action for a healthier planet, this year weaving in virtual experiences with in-person ones when possible.
As was the case at many places of learning, the Patterson Park Audubon Center team turned their summer camp, Summer Urban Naturalist Camp (SUN), virtual this year. Educators prepared two weeks of videos and materials, which were distributed to southeast Baltimore families. Children watched videos and engaged in activities at their own pace, following a suggested schedule, and were provided with the opportunity to participate in “LIVE Fridays.”
The Patterson Park team continued to work with the southeast Baltimore community as part of the Bird Ambassadors or Embajadores de Aves program, designed to connect Latinos and migratory birds who share similar travel routes along the Americas. Through virtual and small group meetings throughout 2020, Bird Ambassadors embraced fun hands-on projects such as creating a video call-to-action and painting storm drains.
Recognizing the need for nature, especially in uncertain times, our team continued to promote the use of local parks and green spaces and nurture habitat gardens in Patterson Park and in Baltimore neighborhoods. The team continues to work with gardeners to “spread it like wildflower” in homes, schoolyards, and shared spaces.
Pickering Creek Audubon Center
This year, the Pickering Creek Audubon Center team launched a modified version of their successful EcoCamp, EcoCamp From Home. This virtual experience offered campers an opportunity to “play” with other kids their age while providing the tools and encouragement to get outdoors and explore safely at home. Although they couldn’t be together in person, families shared pictures of their EcoCamp From Home experiences so that all could see the results of experiments, scavenger hunts and exploration. To continue encouragement of outdoor exploration, the team created Fall EcoCamp Adventure Kits, a companion to the trails at Pickering Creek, which includes an activity guide and supplies to discover all that the outdoors has to offer.
Collaborations with schools remained critical, even in the midst of the pandemic. The team met virtually with Wicomico science teachers to create lesson plans for all possible contingencies as the 2020-2021 school year began, to ensure that students could still "visit" different habitats and learn about Chesapeake Bay watershed wildlife and conservation issues, even if field trips turned virtual. This summer, Caroline County Environmental Earth Science teachers and Pickering Creek Audubon educators persevered and gathered online, making adjustments to virtual lessons so that they could bring Chesapeake Bay habitats and wildlife to life for high school students doing distance learning this fall.
Working with Building African American Minds (BAAM), the Pickering Creek team connected students to outdoor and nature based activities, offering them experiences outside the academic setting. Similarly, our educators partnered with Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center’s afterschool program to offer science experiments and crafts and games, all as part of the afterschool Nature Explorer’s experience. Read more in the Fall 2020 Newsletter.
As we look ahead to 2021, Audubon will be piloting an exciting new coastal stewardship program for the declining and state-endangered Common Terns and Black Skimmers, in the Maryland Coastal Bays, thanks to funding from Maryland Department of Natural Resources. This innovative work will use rafts as artificial nest sites and decoy birds and a sound system to act as social attraction, following the model of Audubon’s Seabird Institute. To date, artificial nesting islands for colonial seabirds have not been used in Maryland.