I have a vivid image of Linda’s former building and classroom. She used to teach in one of those wonderful old rooms with creaky wooden floors and lots of wall space. There wasn’t much wall to be seen, though, since nearly every square inch was covered—mostly with nature related posters and student work that reflected the outdoors.
The outside wall was blessed with many windows, one of which had a large pine tree growing nearby. She had placed bird feeders near the windows and the pine provided cover for the birds. Kids busily observed the various species of birds at the feeders and then recorded what they saw. Her class participated in what is now the Project FeederWatch program through Cornell University, which actually turns the bird feeder outside the window into an interdisciplinary research activity and enables children to share their data with students across the country. The data is then accessible online and can be compared with findings in other regions. (http://feederwatch.org/about/project-overview/)
Placed near classroom windows, feeders can provide a unique opportunity for students to get an up-close look at wildlife without leaving the classroom). Feeding stations also can promote a stewardship ethic as students take responsibility for filling and maintaining the feeders. Feeders also provide a great opportunity to carry the message of enjoying nature back to the home.
The best feeders can be made from a variety of simple materials and often require no construction. Pie pans, plastic bottles, and pine cones with peanut butter and seeds can be converted easily into bird feeders that kids can watch at home.
Another great way to incorporate technology into bird observation is to set up a bird feeder cam. These cameras can be trained on a feeder and can make it possible to record feeding activity during a given time period. Some teachers use the cams to teach data analysis as well as bird identification and feeding patterns. Cameras are available for under $100, and can be used by multiple classrooms. School parent organizations often serve as a funding source for these great devices.
Camera is focused on this feeding station.
Winter is a great time to focus on birds! Just a simple handmade feeder outside a classroom window can create great discussions and inspire interest in a fascinating field of study.