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Schools 7

Published in Schools Written by April 24 2018 1

Just as Medellin pioneered the development of Colombian wild-bird study and conservation via the founding of Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitologia (SAO) nearly 35 years ago, now the city can boast of hosting the first-ever congress of junior ornithology students.

In the April 19 event at Medellin’s Colegio Montessori, some 70 students from four local schools -- Montessori, Colegio Theodoro Hertzl, Colegio Colombo-Britanico and Club de Aves de Ebejico – joined professors and SAO volunteers to celebrate the Primer Encuentro de Clubes Infantiles de Observadores de Aves -- the first-ever Colombian joint congress of junior ornithology students.

Following a morning bird-walk around the Montessori campus -- featuring a dazzling display of migratory birds including Yellow Warbler (Setophaga Petechia) and Canada Warbler (Cardellina Canadensis), both now heading for their North American breeding grounds  – students and professors provided updates on groundbreaking junior-ornithology studies here.

Colegio Montessori and Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (see “Top Bilingual Primary Schools in Metro Medellin Now Offer Ornithology Studies,” 08/03/2017 Medellin Herald) have been leaders in developing junior ornithology studies here -- mainly for primary-level students.

But Colegio Colombo-Britanico and Club de Aves de Ebejico likewise have been making impressive strides over the past 12-to-18 months, as students and professors explained here.

At Colombo-Britanico – one of Medellin’s top bilingual schools – biology professor Alejandra Becerra explained that her program combines bird studies with broader environmental education.

“We’re working to sensitize our students, and their behavior,” Becerra said. Besides classroom work and field trips, the ornithology students also are now participating in the annual SAO-organized Medellin Bird Festival (Festival de Aves de Medellin). All of these activities and studies help motivate students to broaden their horizons and “get them out of shopping malls,” Becerra quipped.

The Colombo-Britanico students -- mostly high-school level, but also primary level, plus some parents, relatives and teachers -- participate in birding excursions to locations including Parque La Frontera in Medellín, El Salado Ecological Park in Envigado, the Alto de San Miguel nature reserve in the southern Medellin suburb of Caldas, the San Sebastián de la Castellana nature reserve in the eastern Medellin suburb of El Retiro, the El Moral reserve near the village of San Cristóbal, the El Romeral reserve in the municipality of La Estrella, the Medellin Botanical Gardens, and (on one occasion) a special weekend-trip to the ProAves “Pájaro Arriero” reserve in the municipality of Anorí, organized in cooperation with the Corantioquia environmental regulatory agency.

As Montessori rector Myriam Montes explained in her presentation here, “when we see people interested in birds, it sparks so much hope – that the beauty of birds can inspire a desire to protect and respect them.

“Our country [Colombia, the nation with the world’s richest bird diversity] doesn’t know what we have. But with people like you, we have a better chance of saving what we have. So we hope these clubs keep growing.”

Likwise, three-year-veteran Montessori bird-club student Martin Zapata added here that ornithology education gained in the early years of study “will stay with you for life.” Fellow student “Manuela” added that such studies can help discourage trafficking in wild animals, while promotion of bird conservation also can help control excessive growth of damaging insect populations.

On a similar note, Ebejico bird-club founder and professor Edgar Hoyos introduced one young student (named “Albeiro”) here who confessed that years ago, he and friends used to kill birds and eat them.

“But after we began studying with Edgar, now we take care of birds – we appreciate their songs and their beauty. Now I want to write a book asking pardon for what we did before,” Albeiro added.

In the “El Brasil” neighborhood near the town of Ebejico, students in the Pajaros de Mi Vereda program founded by Hoyos so-far have recorded more than 120 bird species in an area that principally is dedicated to coffee, sugar cane, fruit and vegetable production.

The initiative has been so successful that the Pajaros de Mi Vereda program has won two environmental prizes from Corantioquia, including donations of binoculars, he said.

Projects to date include installing and maintaining bird-feeders (mainly stocked with plantains for fruit-eating birds) and teaching students how to point-out bird sightings to their colleagues, using the concept of the hour-hand of a 12-hour clock, he said.  

Meanwhile, Colegio Hertzl ornithology instructor Alejandro Cartagena pointed-out in his presentation here that junior ornithology students are like “seeds planted for the future.”

“We’re still in our baby steps here,” Cartagena cautioned. “This is our first group excursion [to the Medellin junior ornithology congress] and we hope that next year all of you will come to visit us at Colegio Hertzl.”

“This is a great way to learn, have fun and share joy with other people,” added Mathias Quintero, an especially outstanding Hertzl ornithology student, a budding bird artist -- and only just 10 years old. A seed for the future, indeed.

Published in Schools Written by January 29 2018 0

The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Colombia’s Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN) development agency jointly announced January 29 a COP$209 billion (US$74 million) investment in building new schools in Medellin.

The private-sector winners of concession bids to build and maintain the new buildings will enter into “public-private association” (PPA) contracts with a duration of 20 years.

Colombia’s Education Ministry and the Medellin municipal government will co-finance the projects, tapping the expertise of IFC and FDN.

The private concessionaires not only must construct the new buildings but also must “guarantee their good quality, their maintenance and provide cleaning, security and [computer-internet] connectivity,” according to the IFC-FDN joint press statement.

In all, 13 schools will be built, rebuilt, expanded or upgraded in Medellin, adding the equivalent of 290 new classrooms and 161 other public spaces -- benefitting some 11,280 students, according to the agencies.

The school construction project is necessitated by Medellin’s decision to lengthen school days, effectively adding two-years’ of classroom education time-and-space for students, explained Education Minister Yaneth Giha.

The new PPA project in Medellin and a similar project in Barranquilla are Colombia’s first-ever PPA school-construction deals, according to the agencies. PPAs enable “efficiencies gained from experience in the private sector, such as introducing technologies that permit improvements in service delivery,” according to the agencies.

Payments to the concessionaires in the PPAs will begin upon successful completion of construction, as well as satisfactory maintenance – an incentive for the concessionaires to ensure timely, quality completion, according to the agencies. Unsatisfactory completion will result in payment deductions.

This scheme “has many benefits such as better access to financing, greater efficiency and a better distribution and transfer of risk,” added FDN president Clemente del Valle. “In addition, this is a scheme that guarantees optimal maintenance of the schools and quality services, which will assure the well-being and care of school children over the long term.”

The contracting agencies will measure 81 indicators of concessionaire performance related to infrastructure and services. For its part, the city of Medellin will be in charge of student education, hiring the teachers, school administration and school cafeteria service.

At the end of the concession period, the schools will revert to Medellin city ownership and operation, according to the agencies.

 

Published in Schools Written by August 03 2017 1

Bird-watching in decades past may have been considered the province of biologists and eccentrics. But it’s becoming an ever-more-popular pathway for appreciating, enjoying and defending the incredible beauty of nature.

Now, two of metro-Medellin’s top bilingual prep schools – Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (CTH, see earlier Medellin Herald report on 08/24/2015) and Colegio Montessori – are opening-up the fascinating world of ornithology (bird science) to primary-level students.

It’s another positive sign that ever-more people recognize, respect, conserve and trumpet Colombia’s unique status as hosting more bird species -- some 1,925 documented to-date -- than any country in the world.

Two years ago, ornithology classes here debuted at Colegio Montessori, coordinated by auto-didact birding expert Nelson Giraldo, a board member of Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitologia (SAO) -- the Medellin-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that has pioneered wild-bird conservation and education here for nearly 35 years.

Giraldo told Medellin Herald in an interview that some 60 students so far have benefited from the once-a-week, semester-long ornithology offerings, which include both classroom studies and guided bird-walks.

Students proudly wear special bird-club jackets as they enjoy observing and learning the ecology of many spectacular native birds at locations including the Medellin Botanical Garden, the Medellin Zoo and nearby bird-rich areas including Angelopolis and the El Salado nature reserve in Envigado.

Typical class sizes are 15 students per semester, including third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, Giraldo explained.

The school provides supervised bus transport to birding sites as well as four binoculars, which the kids share among themselves.

Classroom materials include SAO-published or SAO-sponsored guides including Birds of the Aburra Valley, Birds of the Upper San Miguel Area (where the Rio Medellin is born), as well as guest lecture-expositions, including two by current SAO president Martin Estrada.

CTH Latest Entrant

More recently, Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (CTH) began offering ornithology classes to third-, fourth-, fifth- and six-graders, as primary-level English/science teacher and ornithology auto-didact Alejandro Cartagena explained to Medellin Herald in recent school visits here -- which included a bird-walk in the extensively forested, 6.3-hectare CTH campus.

While an inventory of birds at CTH has only been underway for less-than a year, Cartagena and students have already compiled a list of more than 100 species, opening eyes and insights into the lives of spectacular hummingbirds, tanagers, a resident barn-owl, migratory warblers, hawks and the amazing Common Potoo, which during daylight hours perches vertically, quietly and almost invisibly at the tail-end of certain branches.

The once-a-week, 1.5-hours-long ornithology offerings at CTH include classroom lectures on birding basics, bird anatomy, how to use binoculars, how to use field guides (including the SAO-published Photographic Guide to the Birds of Aburra Valley), how to use checklists, how to identify birds by their scientific nomenclature (Latin), by their local names (in Spanish), by their official English names, by sex (most birds are dimorphic) and by the family groups to which species belong.

Kids are also being introduced to the world-leading “Ebird” computerized system for recording bird observations.

They’re also learning about bird habitat and food requirements, which show that most birds and most other wildlife typically don’t benefit from destruction of natural forests, streams and pastures, or from monoculture plantings of trees or crops -- such as the massive planting of exotics including Eucalyptus and non-native pine trees.

Students also are helping to plant bird-friendly trees and bushes, which are now flourishing in several areas at CTH. In some places, lettered signs have been attached to plants and trees in bird-friendly areas so that kids can learn their scientific and Spanish names.

They’re also regularly bringing certain fruits and grains to bird feeders on the grounds – one way of teaching that “nature is a commitment,” as Cartagena explained here.

While many young children are by nature noisy and easily distracted, Cartagena – whose bubbling enthusiasm for birds radiates to his students – nevertheless makes a point to encourage his kids to walk, whisper and concentrate when on bird-walks.

To make some of the learning tasks less formidable, Cartagena divides-up the work, giving each student one bird to study, including its appearance, size, habitat and feeding/foraging habits (divided into diurnal and nocturnal birds, for example).

Some students – including fifth-grader Matias Quintero -- have shown exceptional ability to draw individual birds and rapidly make correct field identifications, as Medellin Herald learned during a visit to CTH and also during an earlier SAO-organized birding trip when he was accompanied by father Luis Fernando Quintero.

To date, CTH teacher Cartagena has been supplying most of the binoculars shared by his students. But there’s a proposal in-process that eventually might lead the school to buy several binoculars for shared student use.  It’s also possible that in future, Cartagena might have a chance to expand ornithology classes to students in more-advanced grade levels at CTH – including some of his former primary-level students.

Published in Schools Written by September 07 2016 0

Medellin eleventh-grade student Veronica Escobar Mesa won Cambridge University’s “Top in the World” award for English proficiency in the “International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)” examinations recently.

Published in Schools Written by November 09 2015 0

The just-released annual study conducted by Colombia-based Sapiens Research Group (SRG) finds that 75 schools in Antioquia -- 32 of which are in Medellin -- are among the best of the more than 13,000 schools examined in Colombia.

Published in Schools Written by August 26 2015 0

EAFIT university and Colombia-based cement producer, power generator and port developer Argos announced August 26 the start-up of “Argos Center,” a new, US$9 million, 4,800-square-meters research facility at the university’s main campus in Medellin.

Published in Schools Written by August 24 2015 0
Among Medellin’s various bilingual primary and secondary schools (kindergarten through 12th grade) is the outstanding Colegio Theodoro Hertzl (CTH), a nominally Jewish institution that emphasizes English, math and computer skills – and welcomes students and teachers of other faiths and nations.

NEW GUIDE "Avifauna de Colombia" (link by clicking on book)

SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

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Volunteering February 20 2017 0
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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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