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Posts Tagged ‘observation’

So, we’ve been talking a lot about birds – why would you teach birds in your classroom? Here are some great reasons to study and observe birds with your students:

  • Ducklings provide an opportunity to talk about animal families

    Birds are part of your science curriculum. In New York City, you can link birds to your study of animals (K), animal diversity (1st), plant and animal adaptations (3rd), animals and plants in their environments (4th), ecosystems (5th), diversity of life (6th), dynamic equilibrium (7th), reproduction, heredity, and evolution (8th)… You could also link birds and their habitats to your social studies units on family and community.

  • Using a field guide to match a bird you can see to its name is a great opportunity to learn about descriptive adjectives and classification, something that students in New York City study from PK up.

This is a scene you could see in New York City!

  • Lots of kids think there is no nature in a city. That’s totally incorrect – even when nature has been altered by human impact, the natural world is present in cities and forests alike. Going outside to look for birds (or other animals and plants) helps kids see that nature does exist in the city.
  • Kids are already fascinated by birds – they fly! You can use their curiosity as a hook to help students get interested in the natural world in general.
  • Birds could be part of your civics study – what is the national bird? What is your state bird? This is information your students will take pride in knowing!
  • Will you find a yellow warbler while birding?

    Going birding – looking for birds – is an excuse for walking around (maybe even hiking) and it’s always great to encourage physical activity, especially if you give kids a new reason for physical activity. You might have a kid who is really into birds discover that she is really into hiking as well!

  • Birding teaches soft, useful skills like patience and observation. You can also tell stories of adaptation and creativity through stories like that of Pale Male, osprey in New York City, or the birds in Urban Roosts.

What other great reasons can you think of? Let us know why you teach birding with your students or children!

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Since we’ve been talking about nests and urban birds, here’s a book that examines just where birds live in a city and how they adapt to their human-altered homes.

Urban Roosts investigates 13 different types of birds, including finches, barn owls, the average pigeon, and the extraordinary peregrine falcon. The book uses illustrations to tell most of its story, so while its reading level is upper elementary, children of all ages will learn something new from reading Urban Roosts.

Consider using this book to supplement your study of habitat, birds, adaptations, or observation in general!

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Last week, we mentioned the Magic School Bus At the Waterworks and yesterday we featured Rain. Here are some other fantastic water books you may want to read with younger students:

Drip! Drop!: How Water Gets to Your Tap by Barbara Seulig is written for younger readers than the Magic School Bus and covers both the water cycle and a basic introduction to water purification.

Water, Water by Eloise Greenfield is written for PK students. This very simple book takes students through places they may have seen water and helps them identify just how much water can be found around them: wading, fishing, drinking, or watching water.

Water by Frank Asch is another simple and beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of the water around us from obvious examples (like rivers) to the less obvious (like clouds and dew). The book also shows water’s importance in an urban setting – putting out fires and washing cars.

I Get Wet is designed to inspire all kinds of scientific inquiry. Written for early learners, the book asks questions that require experimentation, leading students to be curious and try out the experiments the book suggests.

And that’s all for early childhood water books for today – check back later for water books for older readers. It’s rainy here in Brooklyn today – we hope these books and the Rain yesterday give you some inspirations for water-focused classroom books.

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So, if you’re planning bird research, you’re going to need a great bird guide. Here are a few bird guides to use. Clicking on each image takes you a library entry for the book!

Bird Finder: A Guide to the Common Birds of Eastern North America by Roger Lederer: you won’t find this book in libraries, but it only costs $4! It’s 64 pages long, has simple black and white illustrations, and covers only the most common local birds, which makes it a great first bird guide. Plus, it’s light enough to carry around on field trips.

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Sibley: this book is beautifully illustrated, so while the text will be too advanced for young students, they will have an easy time matching bird they see to birds in the guide.

Birds of New York by Stan Tekiela: covers birds you expect to find in New York state. If you are reading this blog from somewhere else in the country, this series covers other states as well!

The New York City Audubon Society Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area by Marcia Fowle and Paul Kerlinger: this guide covers not only which birds to expect in NYC, but also where to find them, covering sites in all five boroughs as well as Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey.

We are still on the hunt for scientifically detailed bird guides written for early readers: do you know of any such book you would recommend to other educators?

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When planning to incorporate nature in your classroom, where to start? This may seem obvious, but the key is letting children start by exploring.  All learners, but early learners in particular, need to be given the opportunity to observe for themselves and formulate their own questions before being told what to do. Young students are still learning how the world works and need time to watch and think.

Take an entire period, or more, to have students make observations outdoors. Pick a spot in the schoolyard or a nearby park and have students observe what they see. Here are some ways to encourage that observation and exploration:

  • Snails are an animal that kids can handle safely. They are plentiful (especially after the rain), will walk on a student's hand, and are reasonably durable, as long as students are taught not to squish them.

    Before leaving the classroom, make sure that students know not to touch any animals they find. For plants, explain that if a part of the plant is attached to the ground or to a tree, it should be left alone. Leaves or seeds on the ground can be picked up.

  • Give each student a clipboard and piece of paper. Pre-literate students can draw what they see; literate students can both draw and write their observations.
  • If students are having trouble focusing, give them a prompt to focus on. Ask students to observe the ground for five minutes, then the air, then look for signs of animals, then plants, etc.

    What do you see? How does it move? Asking students to observe, describe, write, and draw will help unleash their natural curiosity and help you decide what to teach next!

  • Students should have some time to sit and draw or write, as well as some time to walk around and explore. Give students boundaries, but allow them to move freely within those boundaries. If one student finds something particularly interesting (a spider web, a puddle, a live animal), you may want to re-gather the class so they all have the chance to see it.
  • When you return to the classroom, have students share what they saw and any questions they may have. Some questions may be answered during the course of your regular curriculum, while others may merit extra research by the class. Take note of which topics they were interested in; these could provide ideas for what to focus on next.

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