2015-2016 Kids Birding Program

Year 1: 2015-2016 Austwell-Tivoli ISD

We began the kids birding program in the fall of 2015 at Austwell-Tivoli ISD. Principal Stephen Maldonado embraced our proposal with enthusiasm and delight. The intent was to get the future generation out into their local environment, open their eyes to the amazing natural resources of the San Antonio Guadalupe Estuary through the activity of birding, and hopefully come to cherish and protect it.img_9956-lr

Our mentor, Mrs Martha McLeod, Science Lab Teacher at Fulton Learning Center graciously and with “no holds barred” explained to us the model of her award winning program.  With that information and a ton of ideas, we launched our program by taking the ATISD 4th and 5th graders to “Camp HummerBird” at the Rockport HummerBird Celebration (HBC) in September 2015. There, the students were stunned by the tiny fairy like birds being banded by experts. Some lucky students experienced the thrill of releasing a hummingbird from their hand.

Dr Byron Stone

The students were taught binocular skills and an introduction to
backyard birds by Dr. Byron Stone, president of the Texas Ornithological Society. Being guided by a few of Mrs McLeod’s student birding team members they practiced their new skills at Rockport Beach spotting shorebirds. Returning to the festival grounds, the students wandered through outdoor exhibits including the Welder Wildlife Foundation’s touch and talk exhibit, Texas A&MU’s Wetland on Wheels with Dr Jay Trakington, Texas Master Naturalist Mid-Coast Chapter’s Butterfly tent.

To see the complete album of pictures from the 2015 ATISD Camp Hummerbird click here.



Following the HBC, we discussed the structure of the ongoing birding program and refined it, as requested by the school, to help them meet the requirement for providing extra challenging learning opportunities to the students whose test scores indicated them to be “gifted and talented”.

Program Purpose: To develop knowledge, enthusiasm & appreciation of the natural resources in our local environment.


  • Engage kids in the outdoor activity of birding (bird watching).
  • Provide structured learning experiences for basic bird identification, bird behavior, birds roles in the environment & contribution to the human experience.
  • Develop camaraderie, teamwork and social skills.

Year End Goal:  Compete in the Texas Park’s & Wildlife’s Great Texas Birding Classic April 2016.

Collaborator Roles

Texas Master Naturalist, Mid-Coast Chapter to provide program structure and coordination, educational content and resources, coordinate field trips, classroom learning experiences and volunteer assistants.

San Antonio Bay Partnership to provide guidance, community contacts, funding and supplies (binoculars, field guides, learning materials)

Community School to provide program guidance, student access, parental permission, adult/teacher supervision, classroom space, student transportation, student sack lunch for field trips when applicable.

2015-2016 Program Outline

  • Participants: Gifted and talented students 3th – 8th grades & GT Teacher
  • Once monthly 60 minute birding classes provided by program coordinator or guest speaker.
  • Once monthly day long field trips to regional birding hot spots.
  • Each student will receive a National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America to keep for the promotion of lifelong birding.

The 2015-2016 program consisted of 7 students: 8th graders Sean, Lauren & Macie, 6th grader Desiree, 5th grader Amy, 3rd graders Fischer and Simon. Mrs Maggie Franck was the gifted and talented program teacher. We began the year with a pre-test to see which local birds the kids could identify. Throughout the year we conducted monthly one-hour classes and day long field trips to local birding hotspots. The students were taught about the nature and behavior of birds, bird families and nomenclature, bird counts and citizen science, keys to bird identification, migration and technology used in the study and observation of birds. The students experience the wide variety of habitats which make this central Texas coast a birding mecca and it was only through the generosity of local hosting organizations that we were able to provide the students with such a rich experience.

In review of the 2015-2016 Birding Program we conclude that the objectives were met as measured by evaluations from the teacher, principal, students and parents. All provided positive feedback.

Individuals and local organizations provided the support, backing and outdoor experiences that made up the program.


Laura Bonneau and Jennifer Brown,  USFWS – Aransas National Wildlife Refuge 

Jason True,   TPWD – Goose Island State Park 

Steven Goertz & Rich Kostecke,  The Nature Conservancy’s Clive Runnells Family – Mad Island Marsh Preserve  

Michelle Batey,  Welder Wildlife Foundation  

Brent Ortego & Matt Wales,  TPWD – Guadalupe Delta Wildlife Management Area  

Captain Tommy Moore,  Rockport Adventures  

Members of the Texas Master Naturalists, Mid-Coast Chapter:

Cathy Koenig
Glenn Gomez
Irma Schreiner
Melanie Koranik
Paul Swacina

not only dedicated their time and talent but some also reached into their pocket books and gave substantial financial contributes. Through their generosity each child was given a year of amazing outdoor experiences in their local environment, seeing the wonders of nature right there where they live! They were also given, to keep forever, a National Geographic field guide and a guide to the fauna and flora of Black-Jack Peninsula to promote life long love of birding and their local environment.

The program was supported through a generous grant from the

Trull Foundation  

that we used to equip the program with binoculars. We are forever grateful to them and will be using these binoculars for years to come with many many more students of all ages.

We also wish to thank

Texas Ornithological Society 

for their generous sponsorship of both our student teams to compete in Texas Parks and Wildlife Great Texas Birding Classic. Click here to read the articles  from the TOS Bulletin to hear how our teams, the Fabulous Flycatchers and the We Don’t Killdeers did during the competition! 

Finally, the program would not have been if it were not for the enthusiastic embrace of Austwell-Tivoli ISD principal,

Mr. Stephen Maldonado

From literally day one, Mr Maldonando was “all – in”. He did not hesitate, recognizing the tremendous benefit that the program could have on his students. Through his support and leadership the program was launched and continued throughout the entire year. Though juggling all the demands of running both the elementary and high schools, Mr. Maldonado gave his personal attention and guidance to the birding program and to make it a unique educational experience for his students. We are grateful to him and look forward to continuing the program for years to come.