Throwback Thursday post. It’s almost Spring, and a bird study might be just what you need.
John James Audubon’s The Birds of America (1827-1838) is probably the most famous of all bird books. The Field Museum in Chicago owns a copy. It is located in the library under glass. They turn one page a day. We saw it on members night last year.
Around third or fourth grade I like to do a short unit on birding. Whoever is older or younger gets to tag along. After a few cycles through something usually sticks. We usually tackle it on Wednesday afternoons on days that are too stormy weather wise to venture out.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to mention my fear of flying birds (and my older kids would flood this post with comments.)
I like birds, especially pictures of birds. I like to eat some birds, I do not like birds flying over my head or landing on my head. I must have watched The Birds at an impressionable age because it is a primal type fear. I just do not like them. Some zoos have those aviary buildings, and I skip those because I’m pretty sure this will happen:
You could go, it is probably super educational, and they actually have live birds flying around you. I’m just sticking to the stuffed birds over at the Field Museum or wild birds who probably won’t land on my head.
OK, enough about me back to the exciting world of homeschool bird studies.
My goals for this study translated into educationese:
Students will gain an understanding of what makes birds unique members of the animal kingdom. They will receive an introduction to the types of bird adaptations, including beaks, feathers, and feet. Students will practice using observation of body shapes, relative size and feather coloring and markings to identify birds. They will gain an understanding of how birds’ adaptations help them survive and thrive in a variety of habitats. They will learn about how birds build nests and use songs to communicate.
Translated into English- When we see or hear a bird, we’d like to know its name. That’s all. Some basic bird anatomy shouldn’t require a whole lot of time either. In fact, if your kid has gone outside before he probably has already seen a bird.
I hear they are all over these days. Get it, I hear?- I crack myself up.
I like to start with bird calls because you can often hear a bird long before you spot it. There are bird call CDs: Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central (Peterson Field Guides) We still own that one. It is helpful for listening and learning the calls at home.
Teacher Prep: Read- How to become a birder in 4 easy steps. I didn’t know much beyond robins and pigeons when we started.
I have a couple great apps on my phone for listening when we are on nature walks.
My favorite for a beginner is Merlin. First off, free is always a selling point. Secondly, Merlin leads you through a series of questions: location, date, size, colors, and where the bird was. It then creates a list of possible choices.
The other app we use is Audubon Birds. It is $3.99 and is well worth it. I have it on my Kindle.
Audubon offers different recordings for most species. Birds don’t sing or call the same everywhere or even seasonally. This app also compares the species to others in the same habitat. When we used a book guide, it is hard to tell species apart. A woodland bird is not likely to be in a grassland even if you are positive it is the same.
The Nitty Gritty:
Get thee to the local library and check out gazillion books about birds.
Start a massively long read aloud session.
Ask the kids what birds have you seen IRL?
What birds live around here that we haven’t noticed? Where should we look for them?
If you have artist types- Do you want to draw one or color one in?
If you have scientists- Let’s figure out where they are likely to be according to their stats. (habitat, eating habits, coloring, etc.are outside start) Then we can graph how many we’ve spotted.
You get the ideoutside startlooking around. If you’ve got binoculars- bring them with. It’s only creepy if you let the kids stare at people for longer than say 10 seconds. After a few weeks you’ll be surprised at how many birds you can identify or how fast your kids can spot inappropriate activity with those binoculars.
These are some of the books that I have used: