Big Schools’ Birdwatch
21 December 2009Add to My Folder
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Binoculars at the ready, the Big Schools’ Birdwatch is here again! Why not celebrate the event in your school with these cross-curricular bird-themed activities?
Running from 18 January – 1 February 2010, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch is a great way to educate and inspire children about the wildlife that shares their school environment. Taking part is great fun and easy to set up – all you have to do is count the birds in your school for a total of one hour, and send in your results to the RSPB. Not only will you be taking part in the world’s biggest birdwatch, the information you provide will help the RSPB to monitor UK bird numbers. All the information and resources you need to participate are available on the RSPB website, where you can also order a special activity pack for schools. The pack contains everything you’ll need to plan a fantastic birdwatch, including a simple activity sheet counting chart and colour identification poster.
1. Make your own binoculars
Set the scene for your birdwatching activities by creating some play binoculars with cardboard tubes.
Age range: 4 — 7
Curriculum links: D&T 1b, 2a, 2d, 5b.
You will need: cardboard tubes (two for each pair of binoculars), masking tape, cellophane paper, materials to decorate, string.
Give the children two cardboard tubes each and ask them to stick the tubes together side by side with masking tape. They should then cover one end of the tubes with clear or coloured cellophane.
Let the children select from a wide range of materials to decorate their binoculars. They could paint them, cover them with interesting materials such as colourful corrugated paper, or stick pictures of birds on them.
Finally, ask the children to make a neck strap for their binoculars by making a hole on the outside of each tube using a sharp pencil, threading string through the holes and tying knots in the ends (adult support may be needed here).
Alternatively, the children could make a ‘telescope’ from a long cupboard tube. Wide-diameter tubes will help children who find it difficult to close one eye.
2. Bird hide
Making a bird hide in your classroom can be a fun whole-class activity and you could even use your bird hide to do the Big Schools’ Birdwatch.
Age range: 4 — 7
Curriculum links: Sc2 1b, 1c, 2e, 5a.
You will need: black sugar paper.
Some birdwatchers watch birds in a hide. This is a shed-like structure that is blacked out except for a small window at the front. This means that the watcher can see the birds but the birds cannot see the watcher. Ask the children if they know what a ‘birdwatcher’ is. What do they think makes a good birdwatcher? Would they like to be a birdwatcher? You could also use this opportunity to introduce some new words, for example, binoculars, telescope and camouflage, as well as names of different bird species.
Involve the children in choosing a suitable area in school for your bird hide. Talk about where most birds will be seen and which windows are suitable for bird-watching activities. Stick sheets of black sugar paper on the chosen window just above the children’s head height, leaving slots three to four centimetres wide at sitting or standing eye levels for the children to look through.
The children can then use the hide to watch, in hushed silence, without disturbing the birds. You could put up pictures of the birds you are most likely to see around the hide and encourage the children to record what birds they are seeing, or draw them.
3. Feed the birds
Explore what birds like to eat and make a special cake to attract them to your school grounds.
Age range: 4 — 7
Curriculum links: Sc2 1b, 1c, 2b, 5a; D&T 2a, 2d, 2f.
You will need: pine or fir cones, a range of different bird foods such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Food and water are the two most important features that encourage birds to an area. Providing a variety of foods will attract different species of birds. As a class, discuss and research what birds need. Ask the children to design menus for the birds visiting their school. For example, starlings eat fruit, seeds and berries, while robins mainly eat insects but also like cheese.
Collect some pine or fir cones (you could send a letter home asking children to bring some in, or go out as a class and collect these in advance). Pine or fir cones are ideal for filling up with tasty things for birds to eat. You can cram all the gaps with grated cheese, bird cake mixture, sunflower seeds, peanuts and raisins. Hang them from trees or bird tables, or place them beneath shrubs and bushes on the ground or under the bird table. Hanging pine or fir cones are ideal for tits and finches. For starlings, blackbirds, thrushes, robins and sparrows, they are best placed on the ground or on a bird table.
Involve the class in creating a feeding station outside the classroom window. Put different types of food in different feeders. Record which birds prefer which food, how long different birds spend feeding, and whether they feed alone or in a group. Encourage the children to observe how different species are adapted to help them eat certain foods.
You could also run a special ‘Bird Breakfast Day’, where the children can eat fresh and dried fruits, seed and perhaps cheese – all the things birds are partial to.
4. Make a recycled bird feeder
Let the birds eat out in style – turn your rubbish into a bird restaurant!
Age range: 4 — 11
Curriculum links: D&T 1a – e, 2a, 2d.
You will need: plastic drinks bottles, milk cartons, yogurt pots (make sure they’re clean); wire or string; birdseed; scissors.
Ask the children to design a bird feeder which is made from materials or household objects that would otherwise be thrown away. To make a successful feeder, they need to cut a hole in the centre of the side of the bottle/carton large enough for birds to feed from and make a few small holes in the bottom of the feeder to allow any rainwater to drain away (adult support may be needed here). When the bird feeders are finished, let the children fill them with bird seed and hang them with string from a tree or bird table. If a feeder starts to wear out or the food in it goes mouldy, simply recycle it and make another one!
5. Living bar graph
Let the children interpret the class’ bird data practically with a living graph.
Age range: 7 — 11
Curriculum links: Ma4 1d, 1f, 1g, 2b, 2c, 2f.
You will need: a large, clear floor space, masking tape, bird-related data collected by the children.
After watching birds visiting your school grounds for a set period of time, or after taking part in the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch, gather the children’s findings and collate them into one set of class results. Display these results in a table for the children to see.
In a large, clear space in the classroom or outdoor area, use tape to mark out a right angle on the floor to represent a graph. Along one axis, designate a place for each species of bird recorded. These could be labelled. Ask the children to form lines in these places, each child representing one bird, using the information from the displayed results. If there is time, the children could dress up in the colours of the bird (blue for blue tit, red for robin and so on) or make bird masks to wear.
Encourage the children to use the ‘living graph’, to answer questions such as: Where is the shortest line? What does this mean? Which bird was seen the most or least? How many more starlings were seen than robins? Transfer the data to paper or the whiteboard by making a class pictogram of the living graph. This can then be developed into a bar graph.
Another idea would be to record the colours as well as the species of the birds seen, for example birds with red, black, brown, white, yellow or blue on them. This could inform discussion about colours in wildlife and which are the most/least common colours and why.
6. Birds of a feather game
Try out this fun game which explores similarities and differences between birds.
Age range: 7 — 11
Curriculum links: Sc2 4c, 4c, 5b, 5c; PE 7a, 7c
Sit everyone in a circle in a large space such as the hall and discuss why birds have different adaptations, habitats, foods and behaviours.
Give each child a card with the name and picture of a bird. (You can choose birds found in your school grounds or species like grey heron, mallard, kestrel and emperor penguin). Call out a bird feature and an action for the children to do, for example: All those with webbed feet (e.g. mallards and penguins) run about; All those that eat fish (e.g. herons and penguins) jump up and down; All those that eat seeds (e.g. blue tits, blackbirds) hop round the room. Finish off with a common feature, for example: All those with feathers flap your arms.
Back in the classroom, challenge the children to design their own bird that is suited to life in a particular habitat, labelling the adaptations which enable it to take food.