A bird in the hand helps children connect to the natural world

The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Science in Nature program introduces disadvantaged youth to the sights, sounds and science of nature.

As a trained naturalist, Sarah Heminway can identify all kinds of birds in their natural habitats, but she’s also a keen observer of the average third-grader on a field trip.

“You can see the kids having those ‘aha!’ moments when they realize the connection between themselves and the natural world,” says Heminway, who is also the director of the Northeast Corner programs of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Thanks to first-time funding from the Community Foundation’s Norwich Youth Grants in 2015, Connecticut Audubon was able to offer its Science in Nature Education Program for Disadvantaged Youth in Norwich to 175 third- and fourth-grade students and 14 of their teachers from the Moriarty Magnet School in Norwich.

Designated as a Title I school, Moriarty receives supplemental funding from the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that all students, including those from low-income families, have an equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and meet their state’s academic achievement standards.

Science in Nature is curriculum-based and aimed at helping those same students strengthen their science knowledge by getting outside to appreciate and enjoy their surroundings. Students and teachers also participate in seven classroom learning sessions using materials that Connecticut Audubon has developed especially for the program.

This 2015 learning modules focused on bird ecology, rocks and soil, and wetlands ecology. Afterwards, the children investigated the concepts they’d learned on field trips to natural areas such as Connecticut Audubon’s Center at Pomfret.

“Our mission is to spark an interest in science in every child, and also to get them outdoors,” says Heminway, adding that the program would never have taken place this year without the $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation.

“Seeing the students actively engaged in exploring their world is affirming, but when you also witness the positive effects of spending time outside … well, the Community Foundation and its donors know that these opportunities contribute a great deal to the well-being of many young people.”


You can see the kids having those ‘aha!’ moments when they realize the connection between themselves and the natural world.

- Sarah Heminway, naturalist and director, Connecticut Audubon Society’s Northeast Corner programs