Look Up! with Annette LeBlanc Cate at the Schoodic Institute

Over three days in mid-October, students and teachers from Beals, Jonesport, and Ella Lewis schools gathered at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park for a day each of bird watching and art centered around Annette LeBlanc Cate’s book, Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard. To kick off each morning, Annette provided an introduction to herself and how she got started birdwatching and writing and illustrating. She also went over basic instructions on quick sketching from observations in the field. Each student received a sketchbook and pencil for taking notations in the field for note-taking and quick drawings.

Before heading out in the park, rangers provided an overview of the park, the national park system, why it is important, and how to protect it as a resource for generations. As Ranger Mackette said, “You are part of our story and history here. You can help protect this place.”

Hikes were taken to explore various habitats and observe bird activity. With sketchbooks and pencils in hand, the kids got to observe shore birds, forest habitats, and even some birds in flight. After lunch, the kids had the opportunity to use water color pencils, paper, and black pens to draw and paint from their observations that day, or other birds they have seen before in their own backyards. Some of the birds included gulls, eider ducks, robins, ground doves, owls, crows and much more. The budding birders in artists depicted birds in flight, and birds in trees — all were unique in their own ways.

Annette shared some basic techniques as well as her well-loved field guides and journals for use as inspiration. There were some truly amazing artists in these groups! A final mini “museum” exhibition using a lovely frame Annette had made to display student work was held, and kids were asked to talk about their work. Feedback was requested on what other students liked about the paintings. Lots of great feedback helped the kids feel good about their work and there seemed to be a new appreciation for birds and bird watching among the kids. Annette reminded everyone to keep drawing, and to keep looking up!

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