On Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Homewood Science Center is kicking off its Celebrate Urban Birds project inviting Homewood and Flossmoor residents to keep data on birds in the area.
The virtual informational HSC program at 7 p.m. will offer an outline of this H-F Citizen Science program, including an introduction on how residents of all ages can help scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a unit of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, that studies birds and wildlife.
To register for the informational session, visit homewoodsciencecenter.org.
“Citizen Science is when scientists need help from other people to collect data,” said Patti Messersmith of Homewood, a member of the Homewood Science Center board of directors and a senior educator at the Museum of Science and Industry. “The Celebrate Urban Birds project is one that anyone can do anywhere and can be of any age. It requires simple observations.”
The main role is for residents to collect data on how 16 common birds are using green space in the area. The local research will be shared with the staff at Cornell to help them determine how changing landscapes are impacting bird populations.
Holly Kelsven, program director at HSC, said the Celebrate Urban Birds project is designed to have participants be active through observations and a host of activities. The Urban Birds project has links on the HSC website to give participants information on birds, activities for children and students and pointers on how to collect and report data and add journal entries to the research observation site.
The staff at the Homewood Science Center will select a bird for every month and have an expert share information on that bird. The program will be recorded and available on the HSC website.
The staff selected the barn owl as the October bird of the month.
Messersmith said the materials follow the Next Generation Science Standards that schools are using, so the Celebrate Urban Birds project can be used as part of schools’ science curriculum.
Edie Dobrez, director of HSC, said the project is perfect for now. It’s not only keeping kids learning, it's giving them a break from computer screens for time outdoors.
“It’s a perfect learning opportunity for everyone’s health, and being out in nature nurtures the soul,” she said.
Kim Smith, science department chair at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, said this project shouldn’t be viewed as only about birds. She notes students “will learn how to collect data and how to communicate data.” Those skills will come in handy for “so many careers,” she said.
The village of Homewood will be a partner in the Celebrate Urban Birds project. Windows in the former Triumph Building in downtown Homewood will be decorated with birds. Although the Holiday Lights Festival was canceled due to the pandemic, the village will still offer its winter mug — decorated with birds. The mugs will be sold through stores in Homewood.
The Homewood Public Library children’s section is planning activities featuring birds.
And, “The Birdwatchers” by Simon James, a book about a grandfather who teaches his young granddaughter how to love and observe birds, will be available at the library and through Bookie’s Bookstore in Homewood.