‘Birds in My Neighborhood’ lets kids swap phones for binoculars

CHICAGO — A local organization has what it believes to be the perfect antidote to kids’ technology-driven world: birds.

Stacy Iwanicki, president of the McHenry County Audubon Society, said the “Birds in My Neighborhood” program “gives kids a chance to get their nose out of a screen and focus on the world around them.”

Through a collaboration with Openlands and The Great Lakes Audubon Society, “Birds in My Neighborhood” is in nearly 70 Chicago schools.

"When you live in the city, it can be hard to connect kids to nature,” John Cawood, education manager at Openlands, said. “Birds are a natural gateway. They're everywhere — Michigan Avenue, city parks, forest preserves and even our own backyards.”

In the three-day program, kids are introduced to native bird species and provided with a set of binoculars to find them.

Florence Szewcyk, 10, said it's easy to put down your phone when you have something else to look at.

“If I watched a video of nature on my phone, it wouldn't really mean much to me,” she said. “But when I come out here … it's just very beautiful and peaceful.”

“Birds in My Neighborhood” is run completely by volunteers. It’s been so popular that the program needs more volunteers to lead classroom outings. For more information, visit Openlands.org.

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