How do we convince someone who has never seen a forest or a river that these things are worth protecting? How can we help a child discover the magic and beauty of a bird or a beetle when most of their time is spent indoors? Environmental education is an important part of our overall mission for conservation. After all, the more people there are who love and appreciate the natural world the more people there will be who are fighting to protect it. Teaching children and adults to admire, appreciate and enjoy the natural world is necessary for the continued preservation of wildlife and their habitat. Our goal is to bring the outdoors to the classroom and show students the wonders of the natural world for the benefit of all wildlife and human communities.
Additionally, study after study has shown the importance of spending time in nature for our physical, mental and emotional health. Ornitherapy – the practice of observing birds to calm the mind, to ground or center yourself, or to help focus your thoughts on the present moment – is the cornerstone of our education program. It is important for children to have these tools on hand from an early age to help them manage stress, improve concentration and grow up to be happy and healthy.
Our team has extensive professional experience in teaching and leading outdoor environmental education programs in the US, Canada, Panama, Ecuador and Dominican Republic. Even more so, we are passionate about sharing the natural world with others, through our education program and through our tours. We feel it is essential to start getting children into nature from a young age, as children are naturally curious about the world around them and hope to blossom a lifelong love of nature and wildlife in many of the students we reach.
Through our Junior Naturalist Program, we are currently working with schools in Panama City, offering integrated natural science programs that follow the educational standards set forth by the schools. Activities we offer include classroom visits with live birds and hands-on, interactive activities, field trips to national parks, ornitherapy and art components such as sketching and individual reflection.
MEET OUR EDUCATION BIRDS
Whitehawk’s environmental education ambassadors, a team of non-releasable birds of prey, enhance our education programs by allowing us to offer a “beak-to-nose” experience for the students and teachers with live raptors. Our birds are non-releasable due to permanent injury or other cause, and their calm demeanor makes them some of the best teachers we have! In every Junior Naturalist Program we run, we bring the birds to the school as a part of the follow up session. The opportunity to see wild birds up close provides an excellent chance to review the main concepts and themes we covered in each program and gives an appreciation for these beautiful animals and hopefully sparks interest in conserving nature and protecting birds and their environments.
Jar Jar is a Black Hawk-Eagle, one of Panama’s most impressive birds of prey. He hatched in the wild in Bocas del Toro, Panama in 2013 and unfortunately was stolen from his nest and raised by humans from a young age. After confiscation by the Ministry of the Environment, he was raised to good health at a facility near Panama City. Whitehawk gave a permanent home to Jar Jar in 2013. From the beginning, Jar Jar has always been very calm around humans, indicating that he is “human imprinted,” a mental injury in which Jar Jar actually associates with humans rather than his own species. Unfortunately, because of this, he can never be released back into the wild, as he relies on humans for survival. Due to his calm demeanor, he is an excellent ambassador and has met hundreds of students over the past years.
Luke hatched in 2019 in a nest box in Arraijan, Panama, as part of the Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership. Just before fledging, our staff assisted with taking blood samples for the project and discovered that Luke had a tumor or abscess in his abdomen. Nonetheless, a few days after his older siblings took their first flights, he did too! Unsure if he would be able to survive, Luke was monitored during these first crucial days outside of the nest box. He was tended closely by his siblings and fed by his parents. However, less than a week after fledging, he was found on a residential road not far from the nest box. He was very weak and could not fly, but oddly enough, the abdominal abscess seemed to have reduced. Luke was taken into the excellent care of Angel Muela, where after a couple of weeks he regained his strength and began eating on his own. He is now a healthy American Kestrel. Luke made his education debut at just 6 weeks of age. He is a favorite bird among students to see up close!