Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Thank You Notes to the Birds

My Fourth grade teacher Ms. Henderson at Jackson Avenue School in Hackensack was the first to tell me of the wonders of the bird world. I was privileged enough to learn about Baltimore Orioles, Robins and Cardinals right from my classroom window.

Ms. Henderson gave me a lifelong love and fascination of nature and our birds that I have cherished for a lifetime. Today one of my joys in life is having the honor of visiting local schools and giving back to the students what Ms. Henderson gave so unselfishly to me many years ago: the love of birds.

For years Bergen County Audubon Society has partnered with the Saddle Brook Middle School helping Mrs. Dunlap and all the wonderful teachers and students with their Schoolyard Wildlife habitat and the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Myself and many other devoted BCAS volunteers adore introducing the students to birding and passing on our passion that has become such a big part of our lives. Our reward is not only sharing our love of the birds with the students but also the very special gift that we receive in a large manila envelope every year.

It’s an envelope chock full of thank you notes from the students letting us know how much they enjoyed our time and most of all how they loved learning about the birds .

Of course there are the funny notes, ones that only children can write. Like the one from Alishba, who said, “Thank you so much, I had a great time learning about different birds, it was very new to me and I really enjoyed it, who knows I may even get something out of it one day!” I think you already did Alishba.

Then there was the note from Gianna, “Thank for coming to our school! Even though I wasn’t there to attend I would have enjoyed it” I guess BCAS is so good we even connect with students that are not there.

And of course there are the many notes that always touch my heart like the one from Ashley. “Thank you for helping me and my classmates…Now we can name birds and know how to find them ..your time and support means so much to me and my class.” Our pleasure Ashley.

Andrew had some kind words also. “Thank you for going out of your way to visit our school , before you came I just saw birds as things that fly around but  now I see birds as beautiful , amazing and interesting animals.”  Thank you Andrew for allowing us to be a part of your class even just for a day.

When all is said and done, whether you travel the world or the backyard pursuing your love and passion for the bird , it will ultimately come down to passing on what we have learned and what birding truly means if our birds and all wildlife are to have any kind of hope.

Our forests will be lost and the fields will disappear if the next generation has no reason left to care. The woods will be silent and the skies empty if our children fail to experience nature up close and personal, the way we have. So enjoy birding wherever it may take you on life’s journey but never forget to find a way to give something back and get our children out birding.

Volunteer at your local school, church or scout group. Take your son or daughter, a neighbor, a grandchild, niece or nephew out birding. In the end it may be our best chance to make sure there are birds here for future generations.

Many thanks to all the BCAS Volunteers that give their time to help our kids all year long …and most of all thank you Ms. Henderson wherever you are.



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