Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nature's Heroes

Kenn and I receive a lot of requests for things. Some folks want us to come speak at their birding festival or meeting. Others want help identifying a bird or answering a bird-related question. We get a lot of requests for autographed books to be sent to friends, family, and/or loved ones. We're always honored that people turn to us for help, and we feel humbled when people see our work as something worthy of giving as a gift.  We've received requests from all over the world, from ornithologists, beginning birders, and Ace birders, from all corners of the globe and all walks of life - and we find joy in each one. But our favorite requests come from teachers.

In November, Kenn and I received a message from Jeremy Medina (a fellow BiF! Contributor).  A 1st grade teacher from Tucson, Jeremy wrote to tell us that one of his students had gotten very interested in birds, and he shared a link to a blog post he did about this young man and his family who'd had a great experience with a Red-tailed Hawk (subsequently named, "Hawkie!") ;-)

Hi Kimberly,
  As a first grade teacher and birder I appreciate all the great work you do with young birders. Recently one of my students has become very interested in birding. I think you’ll enjoy my blog post about him.
  After you read it, I was wondering if you and your wonderful husband might donate a copy of his field guide of birds to my student and/or school library? We’re a southside school without a lot of money. Maybe even sign one for him? He would be ecstatic! I would greatly appreciate anything you can offer to help spread the excitement about birds to my young students. Thanks!

So, off we went to read the blog post, and as they say in the texting world, "OMG!"  After reading about this great kid and this amazing teacher, Kenn and I were not only happy to send some books, we were thrilled to play even the tiniest role in nurturing this classroom's interest in birds and nature!

My response to Jeremy...

  Thank you for sharing the link to your story about Francisco and "Hawkie!" I love the photo of him with the bird on the screen in the background! Birds and kids are just a perfect match, don't you think? Kenn and I would be honored to donate a book for Francisco, and a set of all four of his field guides for your classroom / library. Would copies of Kenn's bird guide in Spanish be helpful as well?

Jeremy responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" to all the above, and off to Tucson went a box filled with books and hope for the future.

A few weeks went by and we hadn't heard anything from Jeremy.  We started to worry that the books hadn't arrived, and then we got a remarkable package in the mail.  The reason it had taken a while to get a response was that Jeremy's students were making this:
The cover alone is more precious to us than most things we'll ever own. But what's inside is a gift for anyone who cares about kids, or birds, or nature -- or all of the above.  Inside the booklet each student had written us the sweetest thank you message.  Beside their signature was a small photo, and on the back side of every the letter was a magnificent drawing!

As I flipped through the pages, over and over, a theme bubbled up to the surface.  More than just the consistent images of bugs and birds, there was a powerful message running deep and clear through every image.
Carla wanted us to know that her favorite book was the butterfly book. You draw lovely butterflies, Carla! Your picture is our new favorite picture of butterflies.
In his letter, Roman wanted us to know that his very favorite insect is a Lady Bug.(Good choice, Roman!)
Look very closely at Esteban's picture and you'll see his favorite bird, the Vermilion Flycatcher, sitting on his arm!
Cheyanne drew such a festival picture! She include many of her favorite things. Doesn't it make you want to go there for a visit?! 
Kyla likes butterflies and wolves.  What a great combination, Kyla! She drew some great looking ones for us in her picture!
Twenty-three kids.
Twenty-three images, ideas, dreams, and perceptions about nature.
And in every single image. Every single beautiful, delightful, imaginative, inspiring picture....


Every person in every drawing - all are wearing radiant smiles.
The butterflies, the birds, the wolves--even the sun itself--all smiling.

There's a powerful message here. Kids love nature. They associate it with happiness and fun and endless possibilities. They deserve the right to have it in their lives, and as adults, we should do all that we can to foster it, to facilitate it, to give every kid of any age and any color the chance to experience all that nature has to offer.

Heroes come in many forms. For some, they are NASCAR drivers, sports stars, movie stars, or the uber-rich. For me, some of the greatest heroes of all are teachers like Jeremy. Teachers who understand that every cell in our body that has the capacity to learn is nurtured by time spent in nature. The teachers who care enough to go the extra mile and give even more of themselves to bring the gift of the natural world to the lives of their students. Kenn and I feel blessed to know many heroes like Jeremy.  We need more.


  1. What a beautiful post and what a difference you've made. One kid interested in birds at such a young age is a wonderful thing. On a recent outing, I heard an older man say, "If you had asked to watch birds in my 30's, I would have laughed. Yet today in my 60's it's really wonderful." I think....and this is just me....I think kids are becoming a lot more curious about their natural environment. You've nurtured a little dream:) that will cause a ripple. That's pretty amazing:)

  2. This is such an awesome post, I have chills up my spine because of it. Well done Kim, Kenn and Jeremy for reaching out to the next generation to teach them about nature!

  3. Lovely post and very inspiring how easy it can be to help a young person see the beauty in nature, or share the beauty they already see

  4. Inspiring post Kimberly! I actually choked up a bit reading it. It is so true that kids intuitively equate nature with happiness. When I get a bunch of electronic entertainment addicted teenagers up into the mountains for Scout campouts, I see them come alive in a whole new way and they are happier and so much more teachable. Jeremy is a great example of one of nature's heroes.

  5. Kimberly and Kenn, it was the least we could do to show our appreciation for all the awesome field guides. My students love them! They constantly ask if they can look at them. I find myself looking up the cool bird names in Spanish too! Thank you for all the amazing work you do with young birders at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and across the country! On a side note, yesterday some of my students were able to see the first male Anna's Hummingbird we've seen at our feeder donated by Don and Lillian Stokes. So cool!

  6. I love the picture of the vermilion flycatcher and the fly nearby :) As a teacher, this brought tears to my eyes. It's wonderful to see these kids become interested in nature and their enthusiasm for it. Great job! :) Thanks Kimberly for writing such a wonderful article about the "real" heroes!!

  7. ...I loved this post, Kim. It's special and beautiful...and happy. You guys do a lot to make a difference.

  8. Thank you all for your sweet and thoughtful comments. I can't tell you how many times we've looked through that booklet! Kenn and I just mailed some books - and what we got in return is one of our greatest treasures. We work really hard and some days are not as bright and shiny as we'd like them to be. When I'm having one of those "not so bright and shiny days," I sit down with that booklet and it floods my whole world with sunshine. In my heart, when I think of Jeremy and his kids, I think of them as "Jeremy and the Giants!"



  9. I choked up while reading this beautiful heartwarming post. What a wonderful story! I was also very moved by the fantastic nature drawings featured in this post. I love that all the kids find happiness in nature. Jeremy, Kimberly and Kenn, thak you for inspiring today's youth and making a big difference.

  10. I'm a retired teacher and this post brought the memories flooding back. Great kids and inspiring adults in this story. Sometimes with all that goes on in the world it's too easy to forget that most folks, young and old, are warm, gentle and giving. This was a reminder that I needed. Thanks for that to everyone involved!

  11. What a touching story! Congratulations to Jeremy and his amazing students. And thank you to Kenn and Kimberly for all they've done to encourage the kids' interest in birds.

  12. Para todos esses heróis,vai um abraco com carinho. A natureza no seu melhor.

  13. Wow, wonderful story. Kudos to Jeremy and the Kaufman's! When my oldest son was between 2 and 4 years old, I gave him a pair of brightly colored Fisher Price binoculars and a small field guide. He followed me over hill and dale as we birded together. He was welcomed on the local regional park district field trips which is good, or I wouldn't have been able to attend. When a new baby arrived at our home, and then another, our birding slowed down. About 18 years later, he became interested in birds again and is now, once again, a fun companion for birding! My own interest began as a child birding with my mom! Children are in awe of nature!