by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
Georgia Audubon is poised to launch a new virtual education platform in September 2023 that will revolutionize and streamline the way the organization delivers content to members and program participants. The platform will be called the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway, in honor of the founding grant from Jim and Sally Morgens with the Morgens West Foundation.
“The Morgens Environmental Education Gateway is a digital space that fosters engaged learning with current educational resources, future program offerings, and other resources to support a thriving birder community and connect people across Georgia,” says Jared Teutsch, Georgia Audubon executive director. “The spark behind the creation of this Gateway was to enable Georgia Audubon to reach our education program participants virtually, while maintaining the ability to offer place-based programs in some locations, as needed.”
As a statewide organization, Georgia Audubon is continually working to offer educational content for members across the state. During the pandemic, the need for an online platform to deliver this content was brought into vivid focus as traditional in-person classes were neither safe nor practical. Georgia Audubon was a leader in Georgia and the nation in rolling out virtual content during the pandemic including webinars, workshops, virtual field trips, and other programs using Zoom to reach our constituents who were isolated at home. Georgia Audubon’s online content was wildly successful, and it sparked this thought process about building a more robust platform where people could view, on-demand and ad-free, a variety of bird-related educational programs for the comfort of their own homes.
“Jim and Sally Morgens have been generous supporters of Georgia Audubon's education programs, providing seed funding for our in-person Connecting Students with STEM through Birds program and other education programs, so we were excited to present this Gateway proposal to them as way to foster interest and education in birds and their habitats, especially in the next generation,” says Teutch.
“We found in Georgia Audubon’s gateway proposal an ideal way to reach children and teens by assisting science teachers and creating material for school projects relating to birds and birding. Expanding the availability of Master Birder, which serves already-committed birders, is just icing on the cake.” Jim explained.
One of the first programs that will be offered via the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway will be our popular Georgia Audubon Master Birder Program, beginning in October 2023. This six-week program will feature course content taught virtually via the Gateway, followed by in-person weekend field trips in different geographic areas of the state to allow program participants to get hands-on experience with the bird ID and ecology lessons being presented via the virtual sessions. For the fall 2023 course, participants will use the Gateway to access weekly lessons, chat with other learners, and receive field trip information and other updates. In the future, Georgia Audubon anticipates offering the Master Birder Program fully on-demand, where participants can learn on their own schedule.
The Gateway will also feature programming that is available to Georgia Audubon members as a membership benefit. Initial webinar offerings include Beginning eBird, Migration Forecasting and Lights Out Georgia, and Backyard Birds of Georgia.. These courses will be available on-demand for members to view free-of-charge to help them learn more about identifying and reporting birds they see at home or afield. We anticipate adding additional programming as the platform grows and we hear from constituents about the content they would like to see.
As an added bonus, the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway will integrate Georgia Audubon existing membership and registration portal. Upon registering for a course, like Master Birder, via our NEON portal, program participants will be automatically uploaded to the Gateway and will receive email confirmations of course participation, links to join the course, and reminders about upcoming coursework and deadlines for completion.
In addition, Georgia Audubon will begin offering other courses, like our Birds Education for All Kids (BEAK) Homeschool Program for youth, Sparrow ID, Raptor ID, Birding by Ear, and other youth and adult courses via the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway. Registered participants will be able to watch programming live and then revisit the program later to review the information presented without the annoying advertisements that are included on recordings that have previously been stored in YouTube.
Over the past year, Georgia Audubon has been building the platform and conducting beta testing with a select group of users. As we prepare for the full launch of the Gateway later this month, we are eager to receive feedback so that we can continually improve this platform and add new courses of interest to our members and program participants.
“We’re excited to launch the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway as a new tool for delivering educational content to people from across Georgia,” says Teutsch. “We are so appreciative of this transformational grant from the Morgens West Foundation that is enabling us to make this Gateway available to members and program participants.”
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