Closing the Nature Gap

21 July 2021

Even in the heat of July, HawkWatch International is thinking about school. Before you know it, parents and students will be shopping for pencils and notebooks. The HWI education team goes back to school too, and we are especially excited this year to bring our Raptor Ambassadors back into classrooms for in-person programs. This back-to-school season, you can help us close the nature gap. 

This past year has shown us that not every student has the opportunity or ability to spend time in the fresh air and experience the natural world first hand. With your support, we can close the nature gap by offering more students the chance to see raptors up close.

Our education programs provide resources for teachers trying to bring hands-on experiences into their classrooms. Thirteen years ago, Diane Crim, a math teacher at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE), saw a gap between what students were learning in the classroom and the outside world. “Even though I minored in statistics in college, I had never collected a single piece of data,” she shared.

How can the next generation connect to their studies, when they have so little exposure to its real-world applications? Diane wanted to show her students that statistics had tangible connections to STEM careers.

By partnering with HawkWatch International, Diane found a way to close this gap. Diane’s students traveled 90 miles across state lines to visit the Goshute Mountains HawkWatch just south of Wendover, Nevada. 

These city kids found themselves trekking through the forest, rising in elevation, and summiting a peak 9,000 feet above sea level. At the top, they were greeted with the sight of soaring raptors coasting along thermal currents.                                Diane and her class packed up and ready for their hike up to the HawkWatch at the Goshute Mountains.

Our migration crew took these students under their wings and showed them how scientific data is collected. In no time, students were putting band numbers on a page, measuring the length of birds’ legs, and releasing raptors back into the sky.

“When you hold a hawk in your hands, and it looks you in the eye, you’re not the same person afterward,” Diane explained.

One of the first students to take part in this program, Hannah Hanson, was never the same. “After seeing these wild birds I felt I had ownership over the issues they faced and was responsible for protecting them,” she shared.

The gap was closed, so much so that Hannah decided to focus on raptors for her science fair project the next year. Inspired by the feathers she saw on migrating raptors while at the Goshutes, Hannah measured feathers' isotopes to uncover information on raptors’ diets. This project took Hannah to the International Science Fair and then to a Bachelor’s of Science in biology.

After Hannah graduated, she wanted to close the nature gap for others in her community. Hannah returned to SLCSE where she now works alongside Diane as her fellow math teacher. Because of one HawkWatch International program 13 years ago, students will continue to access hands-on, outdoor education through their public school.

DSC 0230Hannah and Diane are now both math teachers at SLCSE where they continue to close the nature gap by providing hands-on STEM activities for their students.

This year we hope to close the nature gap by raising $22,040 to expand our education programming. As part of this expansion, we will translate our lessons into Spanish to better connect with English language learners. We’ve also begun designing an accessible program for those on the Autism spectrum. Lastly, we will offer our programs at free or discounted rates for high-needs schools and nonprofit community partners that serve youth.

With your contribution of $187, you can close the nature gap by providing a program to a high-need school free of charge. Your gift will support the hard costs associated with our education programs that inspire students with live raptors, real data, and a message of conservation.


With your donation you are not just helping bring a bird into a classroom, you are igniting a chain reaction that will amplify from generation to generation. The more people HWI educators and raptors reach, the more gaps you and I can close.

We can’t bring accessible science education into schools without you. 

Click here to give today:

Closing the gap by providing equal access to science and the outdoors resonated deeply to a group of our donors who have decided to match your donation. That means that every dollar donated up to $10,000 will be doubled from now until August 20th.



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