Frozen Bird Lesson
In this lesson, students will examine local bird specimens up close. After making observations and measurements, they will utilize prior knowledge along with their gathered data to make informed predictions about the diet, habitat and behavior of a local bird specimen.
Age group: 4th-8th
Venue/s: Labs, LS 102-103
Materials: journals, Pencils, Frozen bird specimens, various bird field guides, rubber gloves, rulers, hand lenses (optional), dish towels to place bird specimens on and/or under, watercolor paper, watercolor pencils, water cups, a few paper towels.
Time: about 1-2 hours depending on time spent on artistic rendering of bird
Set up: Bird specimens need to be pre-selected and set out before students enter the room, as well as assembling all of the materials ahead of time. Birds need to be checked out of the freezer. The instructor should spend some time reviewing basic bird anatomy (especially beaks and feet), as well as the field markings necessary to positively identify the various bird specimens.
The Lesson Plan:
This is a great opportunity for students to use their observational and critical thinking skills to learn more about birds and their physical adaptations based on their habitats. Students will get to handle real, albeit frozen, birds, something they wouldn't normally get the opportunity to do.
“Every time you look at a bird, something extraordinary will happen. Today we have a unique opportunity to study birds up close. which is pretty rare! Humans are not able to get close enough to live birds in order to be able to study many of their details; you usually can't get to close or they will fly away. However, Islandwood has a collection of frozen bird specimens that we are going to use to observe and identify some bird species, as well as learn more about the physical adaptations that they have that enable them to survive and thrive in their habitat.”
- Check out Alyssa (EEC Alum '14) introducing frozen birds.
- It’s also very important to inform students during your introduction that the birds they will be observing are dead and frozen. Explain to students why Islandwood has these birds and why we keep them frozen. (See Other Considerations for additional talking points)
Inform students that during this lesson, they will be observing and recording data, inferring information from what they have observed, as well as predicting and checking their predictions, all with dead birds!
Students should be broken up into pairs, or a group of three, with one bird between each group.
Have students turn to a blank page in their journal and divide it into four quarters.
Allot approximately 15-20 minutes per quarter page. Introduce the quadrants one at a time so students do not rush ahead.
- In the first quadrant, students will first unveil their birds, and make as many detailed observations about their bird’s physical appearance as possible. This should include plumage colors; measurements of body (beak to tail), beak, feet, tail; description of the bill and feet.
- The second quadrant is for students to make predictions about the bird’s habitat (where is this bird’s home? what ecosystem would you find it in?) diet (what does it eat?) and behavior (how does it find food? How does it eat? How does it protect itself/nest from predators? ) Embedded Assessment: Listen for students to be discussing their observations with each other. Agreement or disagreement should be leveraged with observed evidence.
- The third quadrant is “the big reveal”. This is when, after completing quadrants one and two, students are given a field guide and they can positively identify their bird, and confirm their predictions based on their observations. Some students will need a lot of support on this step, and it helps if you already know what the bird is yourself so you can point to field markings that will help the student identify their bird. Another option is to use sticky notes to tag each bird in the field guides. This will lower the amount of birds they have to look through and it can focus their observational skills ("it can't be this bird because mine does not have webbed feet.") Students should write the name of their bird, include additional details about diet, habitat or behavior (if they are confirming their predictions) or changing their predictions based on the new information they have received. This is also a time for students to gather other “fun facts” about their bird they may find in their field guides. The instructor can also introduce the I-pods which have a Sibley field guide app on them, which also has songs and calls for some auditory learning, as well.
- The fourth quadrant, the art piece, depends on time allotted for the Frozen Birds lesson, as this portion of the lesson can be very time-consuming. Allot at least twenty minutes for students to complete an artistic rendering of their bird. Based on the first three quadrants, as well as their specimens and their field guide, students have a wealth of resources available to them, and lots of information that can be synthesized and represented as a piece of art. The fourth quadrant can function as a “first draft” of their artwork, or simply as a space to do a scientific illustration. Regardless of which way you choose to facilitate this part of the lesson activity, the instructor should be assessing and checking student work and looking for factual attributes of the students’ bird before distributing watercolor paper for the final art project.
- Upon completion of each of the quadrants, students can present their work to each other or all students can do a gallery walk of each other’s work. See Summative Assessment section for additional look-fors as indicators of student learning.
Relevant Journal Pages:
Transfer of Learning:
Now that you are experts on at least one bird species, how will you use this knowledge at school or home? What will you teach people back at home about birds? How can you continue to practice observing birds once you leave Islandwood? What kinds of places will you look?