This story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 edition of The Chicago Birder, COS's quarterly member newsletter. For more information about this, other membership benefits, and ways your support makes our work like the following possible, take a look at our membership page.

When it comes to learning and birding, COS had a twofer this summer. Through a winding road of connections, word reached us via board member Stephanie Beilke that the 1st grade class from Polaris Charter Academy was looking for some experts to guide them on a bird hike of Humboldt Park. The timing in the middle of the week and day didn’t make finding volunteers easy, but help was found in Robyn Dee and Edward Warden. When the students arrived, it was quickly revealed that the kids had no prior experience birding. This hardly came as a surprise, but what did was the fact that students and teachers alike were not aware of the amazing natural areas present in their neighborhood park.

Both of these issues were quickly rectified however by our able volunteers. Before the hike even began, Baltimore Orioles sang sweetly overhead and offered stunning views. As the hike progressed, the kids found themselves often not needing their binoculars. Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Killdeer showed very little fear as they allowed kids to get very close up views. Perhaps most exciting was the flock of Least Sandpipers that scurried along the shores of the public beach, much to the delight of everyone.

Near the end, students had a chance to sit down, drink some water on this hot day, and go over a birding worksheet/scavenger hunt put together by Robyn just for these students on this occasion. It was at this time the students got a better sense for how to tell birds apart and snap an awesome selfie.

Sometimes however, volunteers are not found despite our best efforts. When 7th grade classes from Whitney Young Magnet High School reached out to us to help with a trip to Northerly Island this sadly was the case. However, drawing from our suite of knowledge and curriculum tools, COS was still able to provide educational materials. Students were provided with scavenger hunts and guides for local and common birds to kick start their foray into Chicago birding which teachers informed us were a big hit. While we’re bummed we could be there in person, we’re still happy to have helped spread the joy of birding.

If you're an educator or know of a school group or teacher of any grade who would like to partner with COS to help teach about birds and conservation, let us know! Email us at or message us via any of our social media.