Kids Welcome Birds Back With Precious Postcards

For these Wisconsin schoolchildren, an art project doubles as a conservation lesson.

“I missed you,” writes Ivan, a student at Lincoln Elementary School, to the Sora on a post card, “I hope you had fun in Costa Rica!”

Every spring, staple species like Baltimore Orioles, and rarer birds like the Golden-Winged Warbler, shuttle between Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, a protected area of old-growth rainforest where many birds overwinter, and the woods and prairies of Wisconsin. This spring, the Madison Audubon Society, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and Osa Conservation collaborated on the first annual Wings to Wisconsin postcard campaign to celebrate the birds’ migration—and get students interested in their local wildlife. The enthusiastic response—more than 70 hand-drawn postcards came in—showed dozens of bird species, some romping though key Wisconsin habitats and others wintering in their tropical realms.

But the campaign didn’t end with the art. The students had to research their assigned birds, delving into what the subjects ate, where they nested, and how far they travelled. Several classrooms even got outside: Laurie Solchenberger, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary, took her students birding with Madison Audubon, and helped the kids log what they saw at the classroom feeder. Jennifer Anderson, a fourth-grade teacher, writes that her students “create bird houses, bird feeders, and minimize human disruption in the habitats” as part of their curriculum. 

Many of the postcards reflect these teachings: The students discuss putting up feeders, building brush piles, and keeping pets out of nesting areas. Even though the migrants are away for a large part of the year, the kids are still keen on making them feel cozy in Wisconsin. “If you are worried that your habitat is destroyed, don’t worry! Your habitat is still safe,” writes Regan, from Windsor Elementary School, in her letter to the Magnolia Warbler. “Let me know if you need anything. I hope to see you in the woods!”