Ken Elkins believes that an appreciation for the plants and animals in a person’s community is the first step in leading them to conservation action. Ken knows his program participants are not always the ones who are ultimately influenced to take action. He has found that cultivating an appreciation for nature in one person can have a cascading effect on a family or even a community.
He likes to illustrate this point through a real life story: A three-year-old boy visited the Audubon Center at Bent of the River during a field trip. The experience left quite an impression on the boy, so he dragged his grandparents back to the Center that afternoon. The boy and the grandparents returned once a week for over a month to come watch feeders, see displays, and ask questions. The grandfather started to enjoy himself as much as the boy, so he became a member, started attending programs, and eventually became a dedicated volunteer. The grandfather is now an active part of the Center, all because a three-year-old went on a field trip.
Ken earned his degree in Environmental Biology from S.U.N.Y. College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and has worked in the environmental education field for over 10 years before joining the Bent of the River staff in 2008; he spent 7 years with CT Audubon Society, and 3 with Westmoor Park in West Hartford. Ken’s interest in birds started when he was 10 years old, while watching the birds at his grandmother’s feeders in Vermont, and he has been obsessed ever since.
Ken Elkins is one of 40 individuals nationwide selected as a 2011 TogetherGreen Fellow. Supported by a conservation alliance of Audubon and Toyota, the TogetherGreen Fellowship offers specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow receives $10,000 towards a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.
With his Fellowship, Ken developed a new program for Audubon. Bird Tales incorporates Audubon At Home environmental principles into the goals of assisted living facilities to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. Ken has always embraced the challenges of working with a new or non-traditional audience as an environmental educator. With his work with dementia patients, he’ll be using the healing power of nature to enrich the lives of others.