Lesson Update: All About Birds

May 6, 2019:

For anyone who may feel uncomfortable with the flexible “choose your own adventure”-style of the All About Birds lesson, I’ve written an example script/outline for the first two stations, below. You can extrapolate how this might go at stations C, D, and E!


Hello! My name is _____, and I’d love to learn your names! [Gesture to each student to hear their name]. At this activity, we’re going to learn all about birds! By the end of this activity, you may be able to identify some birds that visit the Outdoor Classroom, and perhaps learn their names!

With a quiet, raised hand, can someone tell me why you think birds are important to this forest? What job do birds have in this forest? [Seed dispersal, creating habitats for other birds and other species, insect control, etc!] Yes! Birds are a very important part of every habitat, and there are lots of different types of birds that have adapted to different habitats! Can you estimate how many different types of birds there are in the world? [Over 10,000!] With a quiet, raised hand, can someone name a bird that lives in a cold habitat? A rainforest habitat? A desert habitat? Good job – it sounds like you already know lots of different types of birds!

Well, today, you get to practice being a bird scientist. There is a big word for a bird scientist – they are called “ornithologists.” Can you say ornithologists? [repeat.] Ornithologists look for a few very particular things when they’re observing birds in nature. Take a look at the vest I’m wearing – as we visit different habitat stations today, this vest will remind you what to look for when observing birds! [Point out all the various vest parts.] I, myself, am not really an expert on all birds, but because I do enjoy observing birds, I call myself a “Birder.” Give me a thumbs up if you enjoy observing birds at home, or at school, or at the park?

Keep your thumb up if you want to share one observation about the bird on this poster [point to American Goldfinch. Call on student to share observation… perhaps they’ll say that it’s yellow and black.] Great! You observed it’s color & pattern, just like it says here on the vest. Can someone else describe something else about this bird? [Call on a few more students for a few more observations.] Nice work, that is very good practice being an ornithologist! Now that you’ve observed what it looks like, I’ll introduce you to it – it’s name is the American Goldfinch. The American Goldfinch is actually the Washington State bird! A cool fact about its behavior is that the female bird can weave its nest so tight using spider web silk that it can be filled with water and won’t leak. Males are bright yellow in the spring and summer but much duller in the fall and winter.

How about some observations about this next bird? [and so on… Students’ observations first, and then describe some cool facts or its name.]

Ooh, quiet! Do you see that bird that landed on the bird feeder? It’s so fast I couldn’t see all the details, but I noticed that it had a black head! By the end of this lesson, maybe we’ll be able to tell which bird it is!

Now I’m going to give you a quiz to see how well you can match your listening with your observations. Try to guess which of these four birds I’m describing:

  • I use my short thick beak to break apart seeds.  I replace my feathers twice a year. If I’m a male I get brand new bright yellow feathers in the spring. (American Goldfinch)
  • My feet help me balance on the sides of trees. I drill holes into trees to capture tasty insects.  I sometimes use the holes I’ve made as a nest for my young.  I’m a large bird and I have bright red feathers on my head. (Pileated Woodpecker)
  • When I arrive you can hear my wings buzz.  I’m able to sip nectar with my long probing beak. I love the blossoms on the Salmon Berry bushes at the Outdoor Classroom. (Hummingbird)
  • I love to eat earthworms and fruit.  My favorite habitat at the Outdoor Classroom is the big open field. I carry mud in my bill that I use it to build my nest that protects my blue eggs.  My red breast and yellow beak are hard to miss! (Robin)

Now let’s walk to the next station, another Forest Habitat, to meet some new birds. I’ll be the leader, so please get in a single file line behind me! Could a chaperone be at the back, please? While we walk, let’s put our owl eyes and our deer ears on, and walk like foxes so that we can observe some real birds in the trees!

STATION B – Fallen Maple:

Gather around this area, and let’s take 20 seconds to observe this habitat quietly. Show me a thumbs up if you notice evidence of birds! [Just be quiet, and model the observation you want students to do!] I see lots of thumbs, so I’ll call on someone to share what evidence of birds they observed here! [Call on student, perhaps they’ll say they see holes in the bark? nest? bird feeder?] Very good! Even if you don’t see a bird right away, there is usually some good evidence that birds have been here, or will be back!

Let’s practice using the options on the vest again. Give me a thumbs up if you want to share an observation about this bird [point to a bird poster, and have students share observations & descriptions… then you may share facts & names!]

OK! Time for another quiz. Try to guess which bird I’m describing:

(And so on!)