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Slovenia - Bird Studies in Slovene schools

1996, by Andrej Sorgo

1. Introduction
Independent research and project work of students is one of the noblest ways of learning. In contrast with classical teaching, where students must typically sit, listen, and reproduce, they must take an active part in the learning process. The teacher in such a process is not only a "speaking machine" but also a guide through the labyrinth of knowledge. In an average work project students must be able to identify a problem, find topics from literature, systematically collect data, interpret it, and write a report. Every teacher can easily find suitable topics for work projects in his or her own classroom. One such field is ornithology.

Bird studies are suitable for early involvement of children in science. There are various reasons for this: children are not afraid of birds, they do not need special equipment for observing them, birds live almost everywhere, they are active the whole day, etc. When properly guided, even ten or eleven-year old boys and girls are able to prepare "scientific reports".

Bird watching and bird researching is an outdoor activity, something that is lacking so much in our sedentary school routines. It can be performed as a work project for a few hours, for a day, a week, or a whole year’s activity. We can practice bird watching individually with highly motivated pupils, with eco-groups, whole classes, or even schools.

2. Ornithology in Slovene Schools
In Slovenia, bird studies are not a part of formal education in primary and secondary schools. Students get some basic knowledge about the anatomy of birds and that is almost all.

In 1994 The Bird watching and Bird-study Association of Slovenia established a Committee for Education whose primary goal is popularizing bird studies in the schools and through them nature conservation. To encourage pupils and teachers to become interested in bird studies, we have already organized two meetings of the Young Ornithologists of Slovenia in April 1995 and 1996. Our target group was primary- and secondary-school pupils aged 11 to 18. Pupils had to prepare an independent research project on ornithology beforehand, which had to be defended at the meeting. Only the outline of the project was given, that is, of ornithology, while the pupils had to decide on the topic by themselves. All the pupils who responded to our invitation, which was sent in letterform to all Slovene schools, were sent suitable information to perform their task. They had to prepare a written report, present their projects on suitable posters, and defend them at the joint meeting. The best projects were given a book award. On the two occasions about 300 young ornithologists with the help of more than 40 teachers finished 45 research projects and many more are in progress. Some of them were excellent and the results will be published.

3. Education of Teachers
Early on in our work we found that the bottleneck came up with the teachers. They were highly interested in the work but had no experience. So we organized workshops and excursions for them. A brochure (Sorgo 1994a) and some articles (Sorgo 1993, 1994b, and 1994c) were written. Additional workshops on ornithology were organized by the Board of Education of Slovenia and the Association of Biology Teachers.

For teachers with no previous ornithological experience we organized the first ornithological summer school in 1995. It lasted 4 days and 23 teachers were guided by experienced Slovene ornithologists. They were invited to complete their own work projects on birds some time after the course, and most of them sent us their project.

4. Evaluation
Judging by responses, we are on the right track. We got fine feedback from teachers, and school authorities as well.

5. Acknowledgements
Our projects were supported with grants from the Ministry of Education, the Open Society Institute, Mobitel, the Educational Faculty in Maribor, and the Community of Maribor.

6. Literature
SORGO A., 1993, "Researching the Diet of Owls with Analysis of their Pellets", in Biology in the School, 2, pp. 19-25
SORGO A., 1994, Recommendations for Preparing a Youth Research Work on Ornithology, The Bird-watching Study Association of Slovenia
SORGO A., 1994, "Bird Research in Winter", in Biology in the School, 3, pp. 36-40
SORGO A., 1994, "Project Approach to School Activities", in Didacta, 1, pp. 45-48

KEY WORDS: Environmental Education, School; Nature.
AUTHOR: Andrej Sorgo, Bird-watching and Bird-study Association of Slovenia, Ptujska 91, 2327 Race, Slovenia, Tel.: 386 / 62 / 608 261, e-mail: