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Lindsey YoungLindsey Young

Going Green: Willamette Student Wins Audubon Award

Lindsey Young '06 is the first student to receive Salem Audubon's Green Award. The honor will become an annual award recognizing extraordinary educational efforts on preserving the environment. One student, one teacher and one business will be selected each year.

Young, a senior in biology at Willamette University, was chosen for her efforts to educate Salem area school children about birds. "I designed an exhibit of birds and their habitat and placed it in the science hallway at Waldo Middle School," she explains. "Some of the birds were from the Americas; others were colorful or interesting birds from other parts of the world. The exhibit allowed me to help the entire school become familiar with different birds."

The exhibit attracted plenty of attention because it utilized real stuffed birds or "skins" as they're called. Each bird was numbered and a key gave the birds' names and other information. "The children got really excited by the bird skins. They all wanted to know if the birds were real."

The second part of Young's ornithology education project involved teaching 70 children about avian taxonomy, the way birds are named and classified. "I was able to teach the children how the most common orders of birds are named and classified," she says.

She also taught about classifying birds according to beak and feet characteristics and how to identify the birds' habitat and diet based on those characteristics. "The children really understood concepts like how the sharp, curved beak and talons of a Red Tail Hawk tells us it is a carnivore who tears its prey. Or how the osprey's long legs and talons enable it to grab fish from the water."

To ensure the lesson was interesting and interactive, Young borrowed 20 nest packages from the local Audubon chapter that contained samples of bird feet, wings and nests. "The nest packages gave the students something to handle and stimulated a lot of questions."

Young, who is a member of Willamette University's rowing team, says she has always loved the outdoors. She felt frustrated, however, when she'd go bird watching with friends. "All the people I hang out with love bird watching. But I had difficulty identifying species because I couldn't use binoculars that well and had difficulty seeing the markings quickly enough."

Willamette University Professor David Craig's ornithology class changed all that. "I'm able to notice a lot more detail in birds now than I was before. I was also able to answer the children's questions about bird names and bird behavior. I have really fallen in love with birds. They are a wonderful indicator species that can tell us many things about our environment."

Along with the award, Young received her own pair of binoculars from Salem Audubon, which she will put to good use. "Willamette University and Professor Craig's class have given me a greater appreciation of the environment and nature and made me more aware of my surroundings," says Young, who will graduate this spring. She plans to teach English in Japan for a year as part of the JET program. Then she will enroll in Willamette's Master's in Teaching program. "My goal was to get children to start noticing nature all around them, even here in the city."