The Art of Flight


Step Outdoors Urban Bird Count Promotes Conservation & Art Education

By Emily Cummins, Public Relations Coordinator

What is sustainability and how do artists affect the environment?

That’s the question Donegan Elementary School Art Teacher Tiffany Anderson is asking her students ahead of the second annual Step Outdoors Urban Bird Count made possible by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society and ArtsQuest.

Last year, the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, along with bilingual youth educators from Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s The Color of Natura program, led Donegan’s fifth grade students in a classroom session on binocular use, followed by an outdoor bird identification walk in SouthSide Bethlehem.

The students then engaged in citizen science by cataloging the number of each bird species they saw in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online database, eBird, which is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project. In just one hour, students counted 33 species and 141 individual birds including a Great Blue Heron, two Bald Eagles, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Cedar Waxwing and a Peregrine Falcon chasing a Common Raven.

In preparation for the bird count this year on June 1, Anderson has tasked her students with researching one of the birds spotted in the 2017 event. After studying its colors, patterns and how the bird survives in its habitat, including where it lives and what it eats, students used 3D paper techniques to create a headpiece that symbolizes their bird.

“The connection between creating a science-based art project inside the art room, and then being able to have an authentic outdoor nature experience is no doubt the best way students can learn how artists play a huge role in creating environmental awareness,” says Anderson, who previously worked as Director of the City of Reading Nature Center. “I feel this lesson, in combination with the outdoor bird count, will have a long lasting effect on students’ appreciation of nature and conservation, along with a deeper understanding of the powerful role art plays in our society and environment.”

The Step Outdoors Urban Bird Count is part of the Step Outdoors ‘Get Outside’ initiative that partners ArtsQuest with schools in the Bethlehem Area School District to provide outdoor education experiences for students. This year, the program has expanded to include a Bike & Boat with year the Emmaus-based Wildlands Conservancy which will lead 80 students on a bike trip on the Lehigh Canal Towpath and canoe excursion on the Lehigh River.