The Chickadee Chronicles, Part 2: Bringing Birds to School

RubyThroated drawing by studentStudent’s drawing of a 
ruby-throated hummingbird

Once I soared into the world of ornithology, I knew I needed to “herd” the birds into my classroom.

The first thing I did was share my enthusiasm.  Sincere excitement modeled by an instructor about a topic generates ENORMOUS interest in students. Although enrichment models do point to having students choose their own areas of research, it is crucial to realize most students, especially (but not only) in elementary school, need a Phase One where they are first exposed to a variety of topics. On the subject of ornithology, very few students start off being able to identify more than a robin or a blue jay, and some not even those. After a session or two, all my students show a great interest, and in no time learn and know more about birds than most adults! Although plenty of topics are shared in my classroom, the truth is that the subjects I am most excited about pull in the most followers. And besides, today’s blog is about the birds, so I shall continue! 🙂

Years ago, I came across and purchased a fantastic curriculum from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, featuring large beautiful sets of flashcards for birds. Each student borrows one card that becomes his or her “Personal Bird” (my phrase, it makes me smile!) until the end of the school year. On one side of the card is a full-color picture of a species. On the back are many fun and interesting facts about it, plus a map of the United States showing their personal bird’s range. MANY standards across the board can be accessed through activities using these cards alone!

Over the years we have:

  • Identified birds by sight, sound, and description
  • Read books about birds and birders
  • Written about birds
  • Made speeches about birds
  • Created word problems about birds
  • Mapped about birds
  • Sang about birds
  • Drawn birds
  • Told jokes about birds
  • Made chess sets using the theme of birds!

If I left out a cross-curricular connection or twenty, it’s only for the sake of brevity!

I also came across a beautiful example of a kindergarten class who learns about the birds from a wonderful teacher. You will find additional resources on her page:

Keep on Birding!





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