© Nature Mauritanie

This article is part of our Spring Alive program designed to inspire and educate children across Africa and Eurasia about the wonders of nature and bird migration. The Spring Alive 2020 season was made possible with the support of HeidelbergCement.

Nobody could have predicted a year like 2020. There we were prepared and excited for another year of Spring Alive events, classroom activities, and trips. And then the pandemic struck and threw all plans out the window. With public events canceled, schools closed, and restrictions different in different countries, you can assume that nature is at the bottom of everyone’s priorities.

Instead, something wonderful happened. As the pace of life slowed and the horizon narrowed, people began to appreciate their immediate surroundings and the wildlife that lived there. People who had never identified a bird in their lives or were on a country walk appreciated the space, fresh air and freedom that local natural areas could offer them. It’s safe to say that 2020 was the year people woke up with nature. Spring Alive had the unique opportunity to capitalize on this enthusiasm and transform this newfound respect for nature into a desire to learn about and protect it.

With more people getting into bird watching than ever before, Spring Alive’s 2020 message “How to be a good bird watcher” could not have been more appropriate and would have been the perfect introduction to aspiring naturalists. Thanks to the hard work and innovation of our national partners, school teachers and volunteers, as well as the enthusiasm of the eager children, we have managed to keep the spirit of spring in life until 2020. Here are just a few examples of our work.

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1. Armenia: online nature courses

Back in May, our Armenian partner ArAves decided to get its message across to schools with online courses on the Spring Alive species, without the possibility of an excursion on the horizon, and to get in direct contact with science teachers. The ArAves website gave children the opportunity to get creative with the things they had learned. More than 60 budding science writers contributed to a nature blog for children. The blog also proved to be a great way for children with disabilities to get involved. In addition to writing, the students combined their talents to create a stunning video about the Egyptian vulture.

“Another fact that makes me happy is that children are working with their parents on these issues,” says Siranush Tumanyan, former director of ArAves.

2. Croatia: weekly bird challenges

For parents, one of the biggest challenges at the start of 2020 was finding activities to keep bored children happy at home. Our Croatian partner BIOM came to the rescue with a series of weekly bird challenges on their Facebook page. From photography and origami to bird-based poems and jokes, the diverse challenges enabled children to explore science and nature from a different perspective than is usually the case in school. Most importantly, they made children and their parents laugh and learn during a difficult time.

3. South Africa: a board game about bird migration

© BirdLife South Africa

To illustrate the obstacles and challenges migratory birds face each year, BirdLife South Africa has developed its own bird migration board game, especially for the 2020 Spring Alive season. The Chasing Migration board game follows the journeys of seven Spring Alive mascots their journey from the northern to the southern hemisphere. On their journey, players help their birds find safe stops, recharge their batteries, and get to their destination safely to master bird-themed challenges along the way. Teams from the local community had a lot of fun testing the game, which could be the next big thing …

4. Mauritania: outdoor learning

© Nature Mauritania

This year, COVID-19 restrictions in Mauritania prevented children from Noura School and Science et Savoir in Nouakchott from participating in the usual World Migratory Bird Day celebrations. However, that did not prevent her from marking the day with the help of our partner Nature Mauritanie. After learning about bird migration in the classroom, they set about putting the theory into practice. They made their way to Nouakchott Beach to learn bird watching techniques and how to identify birds, and to play outdoor bird migration games.

5. Cyprus: construction of a bird-friendly garden

© BirdLife Cyprus

There is nothing like doing a little DIY to get some relief from the stress of 2020. This year BirdLife Cyprus has put together a list of nature friendly activities parents can do at home with their children. This included making your own bird bath, as well as detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a nesting box describing the different sizes and styles of different bird species. Not only did these DIY projects directly help the birds in the area, we are sure they were permanent fun as well, as birds drawn to people’s gardens create hours of entertainment.

6. Nigeria: Planting Seeds of Change

© Nigerian Conservation Foundation

There is no better way to celebrate World Migratory Birds Day than making your area a better place for birds. This year our partner, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, organized tree planting in Finima Nature Park, a piece of green freshwater swamp forest along the Nigerian coast. Students, teachers and members of the local community came together to restore the forest’s vegetation. They also participated in bird watching activities, watching the birds and wildlife that would benefit from their actions.

We only had space for a few examples, but would like to thank all members of the Spring Alive Partnership for their flexibility, ingenuity and commitment this year.