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Biodiversity teach-ins connect students with biologists, oceanographers, other experts


Over the last couple years, we’ve covered two topics quite a bit: the centennial of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction, and efforts to spark kids’ interest in birds. The topics might seem unrelated, but there’s a wonderful connection between them.

Ed Begley, Jr.
Ed Begley, Jr.

Project Passenger Pigeon, the initiative headed by our friend and author Joel Greenberg, inspired biology teacher Deb Perryman, of Elgin High School, northwest of Chicago, to create and organize the National Biodiversity Teach-in. It’s a series of free webinars about nature and the environment aimed at students in grades three through college.

Greenberg wrote the book A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction and our February 2014 feature story Like Meteors from Heaven.

“As I was working on Project Passenger Pigeon, a mutual friend suggested that Deb and I get together, as she has won national teaching awards and is amazingly creative and energetic,” Greenberg says. “We met and Deb launched several Passenger Pigeon efforts, including getting Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to declare September 2014 the Month of the Passenger Pigeon.”

Philippe Cousteau
Philippe Cousteau

The first teach-in occurred in September 2014, the 100th anniversary of the last pigeon’s death. More than 8,000 people from five countries joined in. The second event will take place on each Friday this month — February 5, 12, 19, and 26 — plus a special session on Thursday, February 11, devoted mostly to presentations on the oceans. Currently, almost 14,000 people are registered from 23 states, the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Mexico, Denmark, India, Australia, and Japan. Perryman and her fellow organizers hope to reach their goal of 16,000 participants.

The National Geographic Society’s Education Foundation, the Illinois Geographic Alliance, and EarthEcho International are among the groups supporting the teach-in.

Speakers include actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. and filmmaker and author Philippe Cousteau (grandson of Jacques). Biologists, oceanographers, and other experts are also slated to present. You can read more about the presenters and their topics and find registration info here, and you can watch videos about the teach-in on its YouTube channel.

Follow the teach-in on Facebook and Twitter.

Why birding is a cure-all for kids.

Book from PBS Kids host explains how to become a nature mentor.

Read our articles about the Passenger Pigeon.

Read more stories about young birders.


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