You can't miss the birds around York City's Kiwanis Lake.

The slender white form of the great egret gracefully swoops across the lake to settle in the tall pines on the north side. To the west, the youngest of the black-crowned night herons and yellow-crowned night herons cause a ruckus in their nests at dawn and twilight, demanding meals from their doting parents.

On the lake and the ground, and sometimes in the baseball field across the street in Noonan Park, geese reign, glaring at the people who dare to stare too long at their fuzzy goslings. In Willis Run and near the island in the lake, duck families in a wide variety of colors proudly parade their ducklings.

The lake is the only place in Pennsylvania where you can find the egrets and herons together, causing the Audubon Society to designate it as an Important Bird Site in 2004.

Another thing about the lake: There are two K-8 schools within walking distance.

For four years, the Audubon Society has worked with Ferguson and Devers schools to channel kids' natural curiosity about, well, nature, to learning about the park in their neighborhood and why it's important to protect it and the wildlife there.

Fifth- and sixth-grade classes get a monthly visit from Audubon workers to learn about the Codorus Creek watershed and the environment, and at the end of the year they take a trip to Kiwanis Lake to see the birds and their young, remove invasive plants and do a stream study of Willis Run.

"The goal is to make them care about it and be educated enough about the environment to make respectful decisions in the future and take care of it," said Kim Schubert, program coordinator for York's Audubon chapter.

And it works. Devers teacher Heather Myers said during a recent field trip that she sees her students pick up trash they see at the park and get upset when people are disrespectful of the environment there.

"This is their park; this is their city," Myers said. "It's cool that this is a protected environment and the kids can enjoy it every day."

There are plenty of areas in the city where the environment isn't so healthy for children. It's nice to be able to focus on this rookery where endangered birds can safely nest and schoolchildren can learn to respect them and their place in the world.

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