Bridging the Americas
Using neotropical migratory birds as a theme to enhance environmental and cultural awareness.
Bridging the Americas / Unidos por las Aves is a cross-cultural environmental education program that partners classes in grades 3 through 8 in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, New Hampshire and Vermont with classes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The paired classes learn and exchange information about the migratory birds that winter in Latin America and return to the US and Canada each spring to breed.
Since 1993, about 17,000 students from classrooms in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, the British Virgin Islands, and Ecuador have participated.
Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves is coordinated by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) which is based at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
The overarching goal is to use migratory birds as an engaging, cross-disciplinary theme that connects students with an accessible and inspirational part of nature, links them with their peers in another part of the world, and motivates them to be good stewards of the environment.
Students gain an appreciation for birds and the need to protect the habitats they depend on throughout the year, an awareness of the threats birds face and actions people can take to help ensure their survival, and an enhanced understanding of their partner class' country and culture.
Students in Virginia wave to their Nicaraguan partner class during a video call.
Participating teachers receive a packet of teaching aids and information on migratory birds and their partner class' country. Each class in the US is partnered with a class in Latin America or the Caribbean. The classes learn about migratory birds and their partner class' country and exchange art work, letters, photos, and other creative materials. Classes are also encouraged to complete a project to benefit birds.
Letters sent to the partner class in Latin America or the Caribbean may need to be in Spanish. Teachers are encouraged to work with a volunteer from the school or community or with a high school Spanish class to translate letters written by individual students. If no such arrangement is possible, the SMBC will translate a letter from the class as a whole to send along with the students' drawings.
This is a flexible program in that teachers are free to adapt it to fit their particular situation. The only requirements are that you engage your students in learning about migratory birds and about your partner class' country and that you complete one exchange of art work, letters, photos and other creative materials with your partner class.
You will also be encouraged to have your students complete a project to benefit birds. The educational materials provided by the program are geared toward using birds as a theme for cross-curricular teaching in multiple subject areas, including science, math, geography, social studies, visual arts and language arts.
- View a short video from the Fairfax Country Public Schools network about the program
- View a video preview of a New Hampshire Public Television special featuring this program
- Read about how one Virginia teacher integrates the Bridging the Americas program into her classroom.
- Read a Washington Post article about classes in Virginia that were partnered with classes in Nicaragua.
- Read about a Spanish immersion teacher's experience in the program.
- Read an essay written by a teacher whose experience in the Bridging the Americas program inspired him to travel to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua with his family.
Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves is open to elementary and middle school school teachers of grades 3 through 8 in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, New Hampshire, Vermont, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The cost for a teacher in the U.S. to participate is $35. This fee covers one teacher with one class of up to 30 students. An additional $10 covers each additional class of up to 30 students.
Once space in the program has been confirmed, checks should be made out to Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and mailed to:Attn: Mary Deinlein
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
PO Box 37012 MRC 5503
Washington, DC 20012-7012
Because the program is subsidized by other funding sources, we are able to keep this fee to a small fraction of the actual costs, which include the materials provided to teachers, a classroom visit and presentation by an educator on our staff, international courier fees, and all that's involved in managing the logistics of partnering and communicating with classes in other countries.
We hope this fee will not prohibit any interested teachers from participating, and that it is viewed as a small price to pay relative to what the program offers. Any teacher who wishes to participate but cannot pay this fee is encouraged to submit a request for a waiver.
If you are interested in participating, please complete and submit the following application form.