- What is "Bridging the Americas?"
Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves is a cross-cultural environmental education program that partners classes in grades 2 through 4 in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC with classes in Latin America.
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, close to 30,000 students from classrooms in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, the British Virgin Islands, and Cuba have participated.
- Who coordinates this program and what are its goals?
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 Nicaragua meet their partner class in Virginia via a video call.
- How does the program work?
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.
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.
- As a teacher, how can I integrate this program into my current curricula?
This is a flexible, cross-curricular program. 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 materials with your partner class.
You will be provided with an interdisciplinary unit on migratory birds which is aligned with Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, as well as Next Generation Science Standards, and Virginia State Standards of Learning for English, Science, History and Social Studies.
- Read a Smithsonian Insider article about this program
- View a video preview of a New Hampshire Public Television special featuring this program
- 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.
- How do I sign up?
Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves is open to elementary school teachers of grades 2 through 4 in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, 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.