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Educate and Engage My Students

Universities & Colleges

Understanding and addressing the bird-building issue requires the input and expertise of biologists, architects, engineers, lawyers, policy makers, and more. The interdisciplinary nature of this issue presents an opportunity to involve and educate students across a wide variety of faculties and departments to prepare them to meet the conservation and sustainability challenges of the future.

There are ample opportunities for experiential learning activities to complement course learning objectives. Students can apply the knowledge and theory they learn through their coursework to tackle real-world challenges. Designing assignments and activities to be realistic and similar to what they might face in the workplace gets students to start thinking like professionals and helps them understand the relevance of the concepts learned in class. These types of activities are a great way to enhance student engagement and learning, as well as equip them with necessary technical and problem-solving skills to be successful in the workplace.

Photo by Lisa Horn

FLAP Canada data analysis:  Thanks to the dedication and contribution of hundreds of citizen scientists across North America, FLAP has generated a large database of window collision observations. Much of this data is publicly available and downloadable from the FLAP Global Bird Collision Mapper. By working with bird collision data and making discoveries through their own research questions, students can learn how to handle and process large datasets, run simple statistics, and present data effectively. Potential research questions for students to explore include:

  • Which species are most susceptible to window collisions and why?
  • What are peak migration and collision periods and what steps can individuals or municipalities take to reduce window collisions during this time?
  • How do local weather patterns influence collision risk? (TIP: you can download local historical weather data from the Government of Canada website)

TIP: E-mail flap@flap.org to request this dataset for use in your course.

Learning to communicate the importance of scientific research and findings to a broad, non-scientific audience is an important skill for emerging scientists to develop. Writing an article about the importance of the bird-window collision issue for an external audience (e.g., a blog or student newspaper) can encourage students to think creatively about why a topic matters and practice sharing information in an accessible and engaging way.

Students should feel empowered to use their voice to influence policy about environmental issues they feel strongly about. Reaching out to policy makers (or university administrators) regarding the bird-window collision issue can help students learn how to make a compelling argument and present information to a non-academic audience. It can also help them to clarify their own thoughts on the issue by identifying the changes they would like to see adopted to combat extensive bird mortality.

The sky is the limit for designing attractive, bird-friendly buildings and window treatments. Have students create their own bird-friendly window treatments, making sure they meet FLAP’s standards for visual markers. Incorporate a community education and engagement component by having designs portray relevant messages about bird conservation. Consider having the winning design applied to problem windows on campus, either as temporary, student-generated window art or a professional, permanent application (note that any modifications to buildings will require prior approval from the relevant department and facilities).

Design a building as part of coursework that complies with sustainable design requirements. Ensure that the elements of bird-friendly architecture are examined along with all other aspects of a building’s performance. The Toronto Green Standard (TGS) may be used as a template for sustainable design for municipalities that do not currently have their own requirements. Companion documents to the TGS describe best practices for preventing bird collisions and avoiding lighting conditions that attract and disorient birds.

We have a good understanding about what makes a building or façade dangerous to birds. On-campus field trips can allow students to integrate their knowledge of hazardous building and landscape features to identify buildings on campus that may be high-risk for migratory birds.

TIP: FLAP’s Building Risk Assessment App (the FLAP App) is a free Android application that provides users with the means to quickly assess the level of risk a building and its individual façades pose to birds.

If your city has adopted bird-friendly development guidelines, visit a variety of buildings to see how bird-friendly design can be effectively and attractively implemented. Students can learn about the range of effective mitigation options, what makes a mitigation measure effective, and see their application firsthand.

Consider having students collect bird-window collision data on campus. If you’ve already done a field trip to identify high-risk buildings on your campus, those buildings would be a good place to target monitoring. Students can learn about survey design, field data collection, data entry, and bird identification. For more information on conducting formal monitoring, click here.

Many members of the public are unaware of the important conservation issue presented by bird-window collisions. Have students create a public awareness campaign to educate and inform campus community members about this issue.  Prior to the campaign, students can poll members of the campus community to assess their baseline awareness and knowledge of the issue and potential solutions. After the event, to determine if students were successful and achieved their goals, students should poll community members again.

Create a project whereby students can apply and test the efficacy of various mitigation options on problem buildings (note that any modifications to buildings will require prior approval from your department and facilities). Mitigation can include commercially available treatments or even temporary, student-generated window art. Have students make predictions on the efficacy of the treatments, monitor treated and untreated windows throughout migration for evidence of bird-window collisions, and conduct analyses on the collected data.

Faculty members that have appropriate permits to handle and possess migratory birds may choose to use deceased window-collision victims found on campus for educational or research purposes. For example, by preserving specimens for a campus museum, birds can be used to help students develop identification skills and an understanding of avian anatomy. Universities have also used specimens for undergraduate student research studies, such as studies on pollutants or bird body composition.

Every fall during the first week of October, FLAP holds a week-long event to encourage people across the world to search for and report dead or injured birds that have collided with structures. Create a lab or tutorial activity during Global Bird Rescue to search for, document, and report dead or injured birds found around campus.