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Paul Cuffee Elementary School look through their binoculars in the field at Neutaconkanut Hill Park

Published November 5, 2021

Providence Students Receive Donated Binoculars and Birding Lessons

Audubon and the Ocean State Birding Club collected 36 pairs of new and gently used binoculars from generous donors. Thank you to our supporters who made this program such a success!

Paul Cuffee Elementary School look through their binoculars in the field at Neutaconkanut Hill Park

In October 2021, a group of very enthusiastic and energetic 4th and 5th graders from the Paul Cuffee Elementary School in Providence gathered at Neutaconkanut Hill Park. Part of the Wild Kids Club, these students were there to learn about birding and binoculars. They were shown how to properly hold the optics, adjust the eyepieces, and used the knob on top to focus. They even practiced on photos of various bird species that had been cleverly placed in park trees at different heights.

The best part? These children were able to take their “new” binoculars home so they could continue their birding adventures. Now they share their knowledge with friends and family and bring the optics back for future club meetings. All the binoculars were provided by generous donors to encourage an interest in birding and curiosity of the natural world.

The Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership’s after-school program, the Wild Kids Club, is led by April Alix, Conservation Program Coordinator. Alix is an expert naturalist, experienced educator, and former Audubon AmeriCorp Member. She enthusiastically treks up the trails with her club members each week in the fall. From wasp nests and mushrooms to soil erosion and dragonflies, the club explores all things “wild.”
April has taught the children to watch for birds by looking for movement in the trees and listening for their chirps, calls and songs. A highlight was when they spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding in the woods. The young birders were able to observe it with their new binoculars and the excitement was contagious!

Along the trail, they also saw American Robins, Blue Jays, Red-tailed Hawks, Black-capped Chickadees, and Rock Pigeons, as well as heard Northern Flickers, and crows. The children even met an Audubon supporter out birding - and they couldn’t wait to share their bird list and show off their new binoculars.

“The kids were all so excited about the binoculars,” Alix said. “They were incredibly respectful with the equipment and kept yelling ‘I CAN SEE SO FAR WITH THESE!’ We did have to teach them not to walk with binoculars held up to their eyes: a lesson even some adult birders, including me, often need to be reminded of!”

Binoculars collected during the drive

“One of my young students kept repeating ‘I can’t believe we get to keep these!’ while another said, ‘I can’t believe how far I can see!’ immediately followed by a long listing all the things in his sight range,” Alix said. “He also promised he would bring his binoculars back the next time we met. Sure enough, he did!”

With over 100 existing and accessible parks in the city, the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership aims to connect children and families with nature where they live, work and play. Providence is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. and has many underserved communities that lack the resources to experience nature outside of the city. However, 90% of children in Providence live within ten minutes of a park. This partnership has seized on this opportunity to make Providence’s abundance of green spaces a foundation for education and fun, and to help youth build a long-lasting relationship to the natural world and their communities.

Audubon is proud to partner with Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Program and the Ocean State Birding Club to supply binoculars to young urban birders. We thank Tom Younkin for initiating this binocular program and Stacy Gale, 4th Grade Teacher at Paul Cuffee Elementary School, who proposed the Wild Kids Club in 2015. She continues to engage her students in outdoor learning.