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Cornell’s Team Sapsucker is surveying bird species in the Finger Lakes region for its annual Big Day event, May 9. Pictured: A black-throated blue warbler.

(Virtual) Things to Do, May 8-15, 2020

NOTE: During this challenging time of social distancing and university life interrupted by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Chronicle’s virtual Things to Do provides a variety of opportunities to engage with Cornell resources and programming. See the University Events Calendar for updates.

24 hours to curtain

Festival 24, the Department of Performing and Media Arts’ semiannual student-run theater festival, is launching online this weekend as Festival 24.0. The free performance features three original short plays and will be livestreamed on Zoom, May 9 at 8 p.m. Register online to receive an email confirmation with the link.

Normally held at the beginning of each semester, the festival presents entirely new work created over the course of 24 hours. An initial company meeting will be followed by playwrights creating plays overnight; directors will rehearse the material with actors from morning until the performance that evening. The online event will provide a performance opportunity for students while in-person theater events are suspended this semester.

Produced by Arin Sheehan ’22 and Milo Reynolds-Dominguez ’20, with technical direction by Will Aubrecht ’21, Festival 24.0 “will help bring students together, especially those who are scattered around the world right now,” Sheehan said. “Through a fun evening of entertainment and art, we hope we can create connection, despite the distance.”

For more information, email

Birds in Cornell’s backyard

Big Day, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology tradition for more than three decades, is operating close to home this year.

In previous years, the event has mobilized lab staff, scientists and volunteers to travel far afield to observe birds, highlight global conservation challenges and raise funds to build a safer future for avian species. Having initially prepared for Big Day 2020 in Argentina and Nebraska, the lab’s Team Sapsucker is instead observing spring bird activity in the Finger Lakes region.

On Global Big Day, starting at midnight Saturday, May 9, Team Sapsucker (socially distanced) will be listening and looking for birds across several locations close to the Cornell Lab’s headquarters on Sapsucker Road.

The lab encourages everyone, wherever they are, to take some time on Global Big Day (also World Migratory Bird Day) to appreciate the beauty of birds. Citizen scientists and bird lovers can join the effort, report their observations on eBird and support worldwide conservation efforts. Global Big Day is hoping to amass 100,000 checklists this year.

Community engagement work

The 2020 Community Engagement Showcase is featuring student work in community-engaged learning projects in an online format, representing 45 engaged courses and programs at Cornell in collaboration with community partners across the globe.

PowerPoint, video and other presentations in the virtual showcase feature projects from Ithaca to Indonesia, in the areas of public and global health, K-12 youth development, migrations, sustainability and environmental conservation, and art, fashion and cross-cultural studies.

Local and international projects by faculty, students and staff with community partners include:

  • Women LEAD Nepal, a Cornell Institute of Public Affairs project with a nonprofit supporting young women in Nepal with skills and opportunities for community leadership;
  • a virtual museum of Haudenosaunee art, produced by students in the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity;
  • Bridging the NYS Rural and Urban Divide, with students building an infrastructure of electricity and water metering for rural communities through local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices; and
  • Cultivating Resistance: Best Practices in Addressing and Evaluating Adverse Childhood Experiences in Orange County, New York.

The annual showcase is organized by the Office of Engagement Initiatives.

For new gardeners

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener volunteer program and the Cornell Garden-Based Learning program are making their resources free and available to new vegetable gardeners, to mitigate the stress of sheltering in place and social distancing.

The “Just Plant It, NY!” campaign is providing all the information needed to start a vegetable garden for physical, mental and environmental health and “growing through this together.” It is recommended for anyone – including families with children and older students at home – with time and access to seeds, soil and a few low-budget tools.

The material includes videos on vegetable garden basics; a list of frequently asked gardening questions; a factsheet on starting seeds indoors; a seed-to-salad curriculum; site assessment for better gardens and landscapes; resources for teachers and volunteers; and a blog with expert advice on beginning gardening from Steve Reiners, professor and chair of the Horticulture Section in the School of Integrative Plant Science, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Singers’ Forum with Dawn Upshaw

Internationally acclaimed soprano and educator Dawn Upshaw will join singers in Cornell’s vocal program at their weekly Singers’ Forum on May 15, 3-5 p.m.

Dawn Upshaw

The virtual forum will feature a conversation with Upshaw about her musical life and how it has informed her teaching philosophy. If you would like to tune in, contact Lucy Fitz Gibbon by May 14 at 5 p.m.

Upshaw is a five-time Grammy Award winner and in 2007 became the first vocalist to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellowship. In addition to her storied performance career, which spans opera, art song, standards and contemporary music, she heads Tanglewood Music Center’s vocal program and is the founding artistic director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music graduate vocal arts program. She has nurtured generations of young singers and composers at these institutions and around the world.

She has performed in the Cornell Concert Series on campus, and was scheduled to lead a master class for singers this spring.

Media Contact

Abby Butler