DOI / VISTA Team News

DOI/VISTA Teresa Skiba Develops Refuges' First Environmental Curriculum!

by Julia Dullien, TCU VISTA Leader
February 6, 2015

Teresa Skiba, DOI/VISTA at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish andWildlife Service) in Albuquerque, NM developed the Refuge’s first environmental curriculum, Birds of a Feather Explore Together. The program is adapted from the Central New Mexico Audubon Society curriculum utilizing birds to connect urban audiences to conservation and restoration of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Volunteer Molly Madden, a former elementary school teacher, says that through the program it has been “wonderful to see students feel so comfortable in nature, to have a connection to the Rio Grande, and to be able to identify the birds around them.”  

The Birds of a Feather program through is funded by the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds, which covered costs for materials and transportation, and by the Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, who helped cover additional transportation costs. Birds of a Feather teaches fourth grade students about local birds and meets New Mexico State Standards. The program includes three classroom visits and three visits to the Refuge and the build upon themselves, allowing local low-income and minority students to establish a personal connection with the Refuge and volunteers. Students keep nature journals of field observations at the Refuge and along the Rio Grande, and use binoculars to identify the birds they see. The program reached over 175 fourth graders in the South Valley of Albuquerque and this number is anticipated to grow in the coming years.  To deliver the program, Teresa recruited six volunteers from the Albuquerque’s Master Naturalist Program, The Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and South Valley Academy High School.      

As a DOI/VISTA, Teresa had the wonderful opportunity to develop an education program to foster environmental stewardship and opportunities for youth—who typically do not have access to the outdoors due to the lack of awareness and transportation needs. Teresa’s DOI/VISTA service  ends this month, but  she will  continue at Valle de Oro as the Refuge’s Education Specialist through the Fish and Wildlife Service. She will be able to continue supporting the Birds of a Feather program, giving children access to world of birds in the unique National Wildlife Refuge of the Rio Grande.

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