SINT MARTIN (FRENCH QUARTER) —On Saturday, hundreds of kids roamed garden paths looking for signs of birds. They dipped nets into huge old boiling coppers to find tadpoles and aquatic insects. They decorated their own bird backpacks to take home and learned how their own family story is part of the island’s history. Learning has never looked so fun!
It was a beautiful sunny day during the island’s rainiest month, and over 250 people came out to enjoy the seventh annual Migratory Bird Festival at Amuseum Naturalis. The festival celebrates the birds that travel thousands of miles each year to come to St. Martin. It also celebrates the things that make St. Martin special to both birds and people.
“This year’s festival was really special because we were able to provide buses for schools and youth groups,” said festival organizer Jenn Yerkes. “We were able to reach more youth than ever, and it is all thanks to our sponsors. It’s not enough to have a free event if the kids can’t get there, so we want to do this even more in the future.”
At the Portable Pond Station, people learned about all the underwater animals that many birds come to St. Martin to eat. They could even see them up close under the microscope. Kids explored the gardens and paths while playing Bird Bingo and a habitat scavenger hunt from the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. They also learned about pelicans and how plastic can harm birds.
In the craft area, kids and adults decorated canvas backpacks with bird art. They took the backpacks home, to use instead of plastic bags. The mobile media and learning hub IdeasBox were also at the event, bringing books, games and tablets loaded up with videos and e-books about St. Martin’s birds.
Heritage preservation work was also done at the event. One team of volunteers recorded oral history interviews with event visitors. Another team showcased the mobile heritage preservation station, scanning photos and giving advice on how to preserve pictures. Visitors saw how many things can be learned from photos, and how family stories and photos are part of the island’s history.
The annual Migratory Bird Festival is organized by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The 2019 event was made possible by the generous support of this year’s sponsors: 97150, Animal Hospital of St. Maarten, Belair Beach Hotel, BirdsCaribbean, BZSE, Caraïbes Numeric Print, Delta Petroleum, Dynaf, Etna Ice Cream, Hotel L’Esplanade, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Trakx Design, White Sands Beach Club and Yacht Club Port de Plaisance.
At the Portable Pond, kids got an up-close peek into an underwater world. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)
An interview team recorded oral histories at the event. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)
Historic boiling coppers are a hunting ground for kids looking for tadpoles and aquatic bugs. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)
Kids explore nature while playing BirdSleuth Caribbean games. (Photo by Kristin DeFalco)
Cotton backpacks are a plastic alternative and look great with bird art. (Photo by Kristin DeFalco)