What you need to know about Indiana’s first-ever Black Birders Week

20240226BirdsSquirrelNature 20

Black Birders Week is a week-long program dedicated to uplifting Black nature enthusiasts while highlighting the visibility of Black Birders in nature. Black Birders Week is organized by TheBlackAFinSTEM Collective—a collective that “seeks to support, uplift, and amplify Black Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics professionals in natural resources and the environment through professional development, career connection, and community engagement.”

Black Birders Week launched in 2020 in response to an incident in Central Park, New York, where Black Birder, Christian Cooper, was subjected to racism and falsely accused of threatening a woman and her dog. The incident went viral on the same day news hit of the murder of George Floyd. This led to a larger conversation around safety for Black individuals in and out of the STEM field. The week-long event was conceived and organized by members of a group of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals and students.

The Black Birders Week movement continues annually with a dedicated week of virtual and in-person events and programs. Some of these previous programs have been in collaboration with Smithsonian institutions. In 2023, we piloted a bird walk at Conner Prairie during Black Birders Week and felt such joy in sharing stories of birds we had noticed before and what led us to join the walk. We built community and a shared connection, which led to a greater appreciation of the natural space, birds, and each other! We wanted to extend this joy that we felt into a whole week of intentional programming, ensuring everyone is uplifted and welcome.  

Why HERE and why NOW? 

Historically, there’s been a lack of representation and diversity in both the birding community and the history interpreted here at Conner Prairie. As an institution, we believe it is imperative to join the Black Birders Week movement. We want to ensure that our Conner Prairie values align with BlackAFinSTEM’s Vision to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in ALL spaces:

Heart for the Past: addressing systemic racism within our institution by intentionally engaging with guests who historically do not see themselves at Conner Prairie.

Head for the Present: providing opportunities for Black guests and allies to engage with nature through experiences which uplift, honor, and respect diverse perspectives.

Eye to the Future: ensuring the Conner Prairie mission is fulfilled by providing engaging and individualized experiences for everyone.

2024’s Black Birders Week theme is “Wings of Justice: Soaring for Change.” We are excited to support this theme through our daily programs and events during Black Birders Week.

What will Black Birders Week events look like at Conner Prairie in 2024?

2024 is the first year that Conner Prairie will host Black Birders Week events. Conner Prairie will also be the first host of any Black Birders Week events in central Indiana. The weeklong event will contain a mix of virtual and in-person events, intentionally planned to engage diverse audiences.  

The week begins on Sunday, May 26, with bird walks along the recently opened Trails at Conner Prairie. These walks welcome birders of all ages, interest, and experience levels. The first walk focuses on identification strategies, the second on Mindful Birding approaches. The week continues on Monday, May 27, with an owl pellet dissection program at Treetop Outpost.  On Tuesday, May 28, we will host a mix of free virtual events, found on our website. The week continues with a ticketed Sunset Stroll event on Wednesday, May 29. Guests are invited to a make-your-own Trail Mix bar and cash bar before a guided stroll along the trails at dusk. Thursday, May 30, brings Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators to our Homeschool Day program at Treetop Outpost. Conner Prairie and Indiana Humanities are collaborating on Friday, May 31, for a community book discussion of J. Drew Lanham’s book Sparrow Envy. Guests are invited to bring a blanket or camp chair, along with a picnic, for this outdoor discussion and short evening bird stroll. Black Birders Week concludes on Saturday, June 1, with a Pride Hike to celebrate the first day of Pride Month. Check out event details here.  Unless otherwise mentioned, all events are included with daily admission.

Our beliefs drive our actions

Our beliefs drive our actions. We believe that the primary goal of a museum experience should be to create a welcoming and safe environment to learn and play. We believe all people—regardless of age, gender, race, citizenship, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, religion, or differing abilities—have a right to playfully explore, which is critical to learning and personal development. Our Black Birders Week events are intentionally planned to engage diverse audiences in 2024 and beyond. Our aim is that birders and nature lovers in the Black community feel seen and welcomed here at Conner Prairie, and that expands out to all green/blue natural spaces. 

About the Authors

Black Birders Week at Conner Prairie will be led by Zoë Morgan, Curriculum Specialist, and Michelle Morton, Nature Engagement Specialist. Zoë plans and implements civics-related programming for middle school students. She is an advocate for place-based learning and hopes that centering the power of place will encourage guests to care for all beings in the space, both human and bird alike. Michelle plans and facilitates nature-based programming for visitors. She is an enthusiastic birder who wants to ensure that birding is an accessible and joyful experience for everyone. Zoë and Michelle work together as part of the Education Team at Conner Prairie.