Nature Walk Wednesday – Great Backyard Bird Count

This week we have special guest, Michelle McNabb… I’ll let her introduce herself in the article and bio below.  At First UU, in addition to our own School for Young Children, we’ve been fortunate to be host to several other amazing educational programs that share our ideals; Red Oak Community School and the English for Speakers of Other Languages programs.

Red Oak Community School has the tagline “Education through Nature Immersion“.  Their mission is; “to offer a learner-centered approach to education for families dedicated to cultivating joy in learning, fostering self-confidence and agency, and preparing students to be environmental stewards and champions of social justice”.  Read more on their website linked below.

Here’s the deal… the kids coming out of First UU, SYC, Red Oak and other programs we host ARE our future, as is often said.  And the committment of these teachers to social change can’t be overstated.  Cultivating a love of nature and a joy for discovery should be at the top of EVERY educational curriculum, not just these special programs.

This February, the kids at Red Oak participated in the “Great Backyard Bird Count”, a crowd-sourced science project that has been going for over two decades now.  Through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this helps ornithologists, ecologists, climate scientists and others survey the changes in bird populations around the globe.

photo: Potomac Valley Audubon Society

When I was in high school, my Explorer’s Troop leader (Mr. Husbands) dragged us kids out to the wetlands just outside of Cincinnati to participate in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  Every December, we braved the cold, ice and snow to count waterfowl and other birds in the ponds.  When you’re really into something -like birdwatching- its easy to ignore the discomforts of winter just for the chance to see something to add to your “life-list”… and almost every winter, I saw a new bird or two for the first time. Having adults around who were as excited about discovery as us kids was awesome.  It makes me super happy to see these kids at Red Oak getting into the pursuit of nature… I hope you enjoy hearing about their work!


Brian Hagemann


Red Oak Community School’s Great Backyard Bird Count

by Michelle McNabb

I am an educator at Red Oak Community School and a member of First Unitarian Universalist Church. I love being able to come to this space almost every day of the week to interact with both school and church community members. I speak for my fellow educators and ROCS community when I say that we feel very fortunate to share this space with First UU.

Over the winter my students (5-8 year olds) wanted to encourage other creatures to share this space with us as well when they began to notice birds in the outdoor play area. A red-tailed hawk, red-headed woodpeckers, robins and chickadees were common sightings. As they read and learned about birds, they decided that feeders would be a wonderful way to support wintering birds while observing them from classroom windows. They built and hung six bird feeders outside the south wing classrooms and have loved watching many more birds discover a welcoming, safe place to feed.

Now that we currently aren’t at our shared spaces, I am encouraging ROCS and First UU communities to continue to take a walk outdoors and/or watch a feeder or natural habitat from indoors, because we can connect with nature when we observe beautiful birds and listen to their songs. Connecting with nature brings our senses alive, can help us heal, and builds community bonds. All important stuff, especially now. I hope you can find some time to take a walk and enjoy the sights and sounds of our feathered friends.

More details about the school’s Citizen Science project with the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Red Oak Community School blog:


Links to other terrific resources dedicated to enjoying,understanding and protecting birds and the natural world:: Terrific resources, activities, photos/videos, citizen science, bird ID guides and apps from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birding resources available from ODNR Division of Wildlife. An update from our metro parks about migrating birds. Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv talks “…about the importance of nurturing our relationship to the natural world at any age, and shares some ideas about how to connect with nature in the midst of the pandemic.” Great documentary series hosted by avian advocate Jason Ward.

About Michelle McNabb
ROCS Early Childhood & Supplemental Educator and First UU member

I have been a member of First UU for about 10 years, but joined a family of UUs when I married Dan McNabb, my partner of 30 years. Our 3 kids experienced SYC, First UU religious ed classes, and they are now in college or last years of high school. I have been an educator with ROCS for three years and love combining my passion for teaching, learning, and social/environmental justice all into one.