Education

While virtually every activity of the Robert Cooper Audubon Society has an underlying educational goal, some of our most important educational programs are aimed at children, youth, and university students.

Fox Student Grant

Our chapter has selected two outstanding recipients of the Fox Student Grant for 2021!  Each year this grant, created and funded by RCAS members Josie and Geoff Fox, supports bird-centered student research projects. Because no applications were received in 2020, the Fox Grant program has been able to fund two students in 2021, for $1,500 each.

Lara Jones, a master’s-degree student at Ball State University, is studying the impacts of non-breeding habitat quality and long-distance dispersal on Cerulean Warbler reproductive success. In addressing the first goal, Lara hopes to better understand how events that occur during the non-breeding season affect reproduction and overall ecology of Cerulean Warblers, which have faced severe declines in recent decades.

In addition, Lara hopes to shed insights on changing the species’ dispersal patterns—specifically large-scale movement of the Cerulean Warbler between natal and breeding sites—and potential impacts on reproductive success. Her research is taking place in southern Indiana.

Ryan Leys, a master’s student at the University of Waterloo (Canada), is studying the use of nocturnal heterothermy (self-regulation of body temperature) in North American songbirds during migration. From Ryan’s application:  “Lowering their body temperature allows birds to better maintain their fat stores and survive poor weather, but it leaves them at an increased risk of predation. I predict that small, insect-eating species, such as Brown Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets, will cool their body temperature and slow their metabolic rate on cold nights or when they have a limited amount of fat.”

Through his research, Ryan hope to understand why some bird species migrate north earlier and south later and why similar species overwinter in different locations. His study may also reveal which species are able to survive in low-quality habitats.

The Fox Student Grant application is open each spring to both undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students and typically provides up to $1,000 to purchase supplies and/or support for travel and field research expenses. The research proposal must focus on bird species native to Indiana, including migratory species that breed in Indiana.

Past recipients of the grant are Clay Delancey (M.S., Ball State University, 2016), Garrett MacDonald (M.S., Ball State University, 2017), and Mary Woodruff (Ph.D., Indiana University, 2019).

RCAS Youth Conservation Scholarship

Each year, the winner of our chapter’s Charles Wise Youth Conservation Award receives a Robert Cooper Audubon Society Conservation Scholarship.

The scholarship may be used by the winners to fund an ecology project that they have designed or want to participate in.

Audubon Adventures

Local teachers of 3rd through 5th grades are invited to request Audubon Adventures kits. Each kit serves a classroom of up to 32 children and contains four nature- or conservation-related themes for each academic year.

If you are an educator or you know an educator who would like to use Audubon Adventures in a classroom, or if you’d like to sponsor Audubon Adventures for a classroom, please please contact either of our Education Co-chairs, Emma Dragoo (egdragoo@bsu.edu) and Emma Soderstrom (eesoderstrom@bsu.edu).

Past Education Programs

We’ve created and hosted many programs for children in East Central Indiana, introducing them to birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, often in collaboration with other local organizations. 

Our Nature Play Days and our involvement with Nature Preschool Summer Camp helped dozens of preschool children learn about common bird species. 

Our birding class and hike during Camp Prairie Creek—a free environmental day camp for youth, sponsored by Muncie Sanitary District/Stormwater Management—introduced 80 campers to local birds, habitat, and birdwatching.

We’ve brought in special speakers like Dr. Tom Sproat, a wildlife biologist from Kentucky, who let kids and their parents get a close-up look at live owls and hawks. Perhaps most important, in 2015, in collaboration with the Whitely Neighborhood Association, we launched our About Birds program. We distributed copies of Cathryn Sill’s book About Birds and binoculars to after-school programs in Muncie. Since then, we’ve continued to host periodic About Birds activities for kids at Cooper Farm and other locations.