To bring together Windsor Park Community’s diverse populations to celebrate and make aware of, as well as create an interest in, our natural environment: birds, plants, insects, et. al. We surpassed our original goal not only in terms of numbers of expected attendees, (from 50 to over 100), but also in the overall scope of the program. The depth, diversity of activities and participation of several organizations far exceeded our original planning to include: The city of Austin Parks and Recreation Wildlife Austin, Windsor Park Community Garden, The Sustainable Food Center, Travis County Master Gardeners, Capital Area Master Naturalist, Move Your Tale, Laurie Mann, Robin Doughty University of Texas Geography Department, City of Austin City Arborist., and Spider Joe.
Our Method and Intention:
We felt the best way to achieve our goal, was to create a community, arts and nature festival with events and activities to include a mini-talk on Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring by Dr. Robin Doughty University of Texas Geography. The intent of the festival went beyond merely celebrating or entertaining, we wanted to educate attendees about, and to spark an interest in, the natural world around them.
Our focus was primarily on birds using activities like ”eat like a bird” based on the shape of the bird beak, creating a bird garden, painting a bird on a rock to put around our bird garden, planting seeds in our bird garden, learning how to use binoculars to watch birds, how to photograph birds, counting birds for Cornell Ornithology Lab making a bird mural for hanging on the library wall, meeting live birds, making bird bombs [feeders made of bird seed, clay and compost} and making bird houses. We also provided bird-related books for sale and check-out.
The program also included education and activities about/with plants, insects, organic gardening, sustainable food gardening, and growing “green” i.e., planting environmentally safe/native plants that fit in better with the environment and use less water. We also had books for sale and check out on these topics.
Our marketing and communications department produced posters and flyers.
We generated a press release that appeared very early on the Austin Public Library website. I also placed an invitation and information on the Windsor Park Neighborhood newsletter and on the neighborhood listserv. We also promoted books with a display about birds, nature, and insects.
As we drew near the day of the event a press release was sent to several local newspapers, radio and television stations. Several people who came to the event and after the event told me they heard the announcement on our local, and very popular, public radio station KUT. Below is a copy of what was on our library website. In addition we put all the same information and more on the City of Austin Event Calendar.
We took posters and flyers to local coffee shops, businesses and grocery stores that we thought would best suit our program projected audience. I also put the information included in the flyers on the Windsor Park Neighborhood and Mueller Neighborhood listservs.
learn about Noah the pigeon, discuss the book Silent Spring, eat donuts/muffins, drink coffee, learn how to photograph wildlife, hunt for spiders, go bird watching and collect data for Cornell University, learn how to create a wildlife habitat in your backyard, learn how to create a master garden, learn about sustainable food gardening, learn about trees, meet a hawk, learn about rescuing wildlife, learn how to paint a bird, make a mural for the library, make a bird feeder, learn all the things you can do with Travis Audubon, learn how to eat like a bird, learn how to be a master tracker, learn how to build a bird house, plant a bird garden, be in a play, drink lemonade, eat lunch and listen to music. Wear old clothes you can paint in, bring a musical instrument and play along with Bill Oliver!
The other side of this was a copy of our wildly popular poster for the event.
The day of the event we posted a reminder and information about door prizes on both of the above listservs: The first 15 people would receive a door prize. (The door prizes consisted of items we’d purchased at our bookstore: a bird puppet, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring , a birdwatchers notebook, a drawing book of birds in flight, the humming bird feeders you sent us, items the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Wildlife Austin donated as door prizes and some puzzles using birds. All were given away.
We also put up signs and posters in the front of the library announcing the event.
The Event – Inside
Pictures of birds including –Noah the pigeon (a rescue story about a non-releasable, one-legged homing pigeon that cares for orphaned bunnies)—were used to decorate our walls. Noah’s story seemed a most proper way of starting a conversation and program about birds.
- A table was set up with pamphlets, brochures and other items of interest and education from Cornell and local nature groups.
- We included a table with bird and nature related books that were for sale (50 cents for children picture books, $1 for adult paper back and $2 adult hardback. We sold $17.00 worth of books, which went into our library fund.)
- Table with bird related books for check out.
- Dr. Doughty discussing Carson’s Silent Spring.
- Our bird garden the day before. Not all the rocks have been put around it at this time.
- Kristen Henn with Move Your Tale creating drama about birds.
- Looking at our birds: Hawk and Owl with Austin Wildlife Rescue
- Prep work for mural with Library Youth Services staff member, Ambray Gonzales
- Paint bird on rock activity with Linda Anderson (rocks were put around bird garden).
- Alice Nance with City of Austin Parks and Recreation Wildlife Austin.
- Bill Oliver, Mr. Habitat, entertaining.
- To bring diverse populations together to celebrate and get to know one another.
- To celebrate birds with: live birds to look at, birds eating, painting birds, photographing birds, painting rocks with birds, creating birdhouses for birds, creating and planting a bird garden, meeting the people at Audubon, learning about Cornell and its programs which one can participate.
- To understand the relation of insects to birds.
- To understand the relationship and importance of trees to birds and wildlife (and our lives).
- To understand the relation of organic and sustainable gardening to our environment and our feathered friends.
- To involve the community garden people and the Mennonite Church next door with the project : (they donated the land and were helpful and very supportive and encouraging).
- To get books about birds in the hands of adults and children.
- To connect Austin Public Library to the Green City undertaking and all the groups involved with these projects that protect and monitor our shared environment.
The Event – Outside
Many neighbors and presenters gathered early to help set up the tables and canopies outside. (I forgot to mention that the temperature predicted for that day—and did indeed achieve 100 degrees.)
Our Program: Celebrating a Shared Environment: a nature, birds and arts festival
Because people came and went during the day, it’s not obvious how many people were there without having been there, but attendance reached our goal of 100 even with the high temperatures of the day.
People were very enthusiastic and wanted to repeat this event next year and in fact expect it to be part of our annual programming. We had a grandmother who had brought her two grand children and after Dr. Dougthy’s discussion of Silent Spring said she was going to read the book and being one of the first to arrive got a door prize and was delighted that Silent Spring was one of the door prizes and snatched it up with great joy. One of her grand children refused to go home until she was permitted to plant her seeds in the bird garden. Another child, Dante, insisted on planting a bird garden when he got home, but had to be talked out of it due to the heat. Bill Oliver arrived 2 hours early and played for over an hour though he was contracted to play for only 20 minutes and had originally planned on arriving a few minutes before his performance. He was very enthusiastic about the agenda. To quote him: “What an agenda” and could not believe that the designer of our poster was someone who worked for the library. Many people also signed up to have their backyard certified as a wildlife habitat. The neighborhood association is attempting to win the City challenge to have the most yards certified as wildlife habitats. This was the neighborhood contribution to the program: to make this announcement and commencement of this neighborhood effort at our program.
The program was a very positive event in the neighborhood which achieved our goals and more. In this partnership with Cornell Ornithology Lab and others, we helped: