Tuesday, March 16

Bird Unit Study

Creation, being such a tangible thing, is easy for young children to grab hold of. We're basing our whole year's unit studies on the six days of creation and thinking hard about each day and the corollary outcomes of what happened on that day. I think we spent a month each looking at light, atmosphere, geology and botany. Now we're speeding up and so we spent two weeks on oceans and sealife, and now two weeks on birds.

One of J's (6th grade) favorite subjects is birds. Because he has such a vast prior knowledge of them, I just gave him a big ol' project to complete in the next two weeks. As a result, he's totally engaged and loving it.

His project has three parts:

1. Research and make a poster on one bird of your choice.
  • Draw and color the bird accurately. Pay attention to details in its markings, beak shape, feet structure.
  • Label the parts of the bird and describe what that part does. Use interesting facts specific to your bird rather than obvious uses.
  • Classify it into the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species in which it is placed.

2. Create a habitat/biome map.
  • Carefully, color a map of the world to show these different habitats: rainforest, temperate deciduous forest, boreal/taiga forest, chaparral, grassland, savanna, desert, tundra.
  • For each habitat, include a brief paragraph of information about two birds that live there (its habits, biology).

3. Migration Essay.

  • Write a short essay about one species of bird and its migration. Include an introduction with a topic sentence, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

I was concerned that this would be too much to do in 7 days (we have a planned field trip and two days of Options classes, so it's not even two full weeks). But after just two days he's done with the first part of the project. Here's his poster.

And then my budding artist, B (grade 2) decided to do this amazing woodpecker picture. He's drawn it three times now in different mediums and sizes.

Last night, before bed, they both just wanted to sit and draw birds. I'm just going to go with it and give them every opportunity to do this unit the way they want to.

Other things we're doing:
  • Read Aloud: There's an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George. We're four chapters in and there's already a good discussion going on about the tension between loggers and environmentalists during the Spotted Owl issue in California. I love having this conversation with my kids. Their mama is a pure tree-hugger.
  • Second Read Aloud: Bright Wings edited by Billy Collins. This is a new book of poetry all about birds. I just read them one each day and ask what they think it's about and we talk about the descriptive words. It's a light poetry study, but it's good for us.
  • Animal Life in Action videos about birds.
  • J is reading about John James Audobon and doing a Famous Person Report.
  • Bird sighting records. We don't get a lot of birds in our yard, but we're going to go out a few days and observe them.
  • B is studying birds mentioned in the Bible, and not just the ones that are called unclean.
  • B is reading Magic School Bus books to me.
  • B has chosen to do a project on Woodpeckers similar to J.
  • We'll go on an Audobon nature walk on Monday.
  • A field trip to the nature center to learn about Birds of Prey in a couple weeks.
There's a ton of websites to use, but we've found that these are pretty user friendly:
www.whatbird.com (find birds in Colorado)
www.allaboutbirds.org (find birds by name)
www.biomes.org/biomes_map.htm (habitat map)
www.youtube.com (we looked at golden eagles attacking a wolf and pulling goats off a cliff!)


  1. Oh, Oh! A cool painting technique is to use glue to draw around the figure (like around the bird.) Draw big. Let dry, then use watercolors to fill in the parts. The glue keeps the color from bleeding and it just looks cool.

    Also have ya'll been to the Arsenal refuge? We just went there today, they have a good collection of bird nests, you can dissect owl poop and go on a hike to spot some birds (we saw woodpeckers there today.) They have lots of nature programs there too.

  2. How timely! We are entering our bird unit as well! Just got the Burgess Bird Book for Children and put our feeders and bath outside the window. Love all your resources - yay!

  3. http://www.sportsmansparadiseonline.com/Bald_Eagle_Nest_Cam_P0SF.html

    Bald eagle cam with eggs to hatch in a few days to a week. The owl cam with eggs to hatch any day now is on this site too.


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