Learning about nature and developing closer connection with it is one of our fundamental goals as a forest school or nature kindergarten. So we dedicated the month of January to learning about birds and it was such a hit with the children so I wanted to share with you what we did in this past month.
It was a slow-paced and fun learning block stretched over the entire month of January to give the children plenty of time to connect with it, absorb the new knowledge and enjoy all the activities we had prepared as a part of it. To keep learning fun and engaging without taking away much time from children’s free and active play we always try find ways to carry out our lessons and activities both indoors and outdoors. The learning blocks are brief (5-10 minutes at the most) and occur few times throughout the day, incorporating either a story, a game, or arts and crafts project.
As we ended up covering a lot of ground, I thought it would be best to separate this topic into 3 separate posts. Here is part 1.
Making learning come alive through storytelling
The approach of introducing a new topic through a story comes from Waldorf preschools and kindergartens (you can read more about it on this blog) and we think it is a wonderful way to get started on a new learning journey. Our story for the bird study unit was written by our teacher Adrianna and is a charming little tale about Ravens and Sammy the Squirrel, sharing and supporting each other.
The children got a chance to both listen to the story and then re-tell and re-enact it, and they really enjoyed both.
Seeing the above photo of Adrianna telling children the story of Sammy the Squirrel and Ruby the Raven (you can watch a little video on our Instagram feed) reminds me of this wonderful quote from Gail Goldwin:
Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre. ~ Gail Goldwin
Check out these incredible hand-made ravens my mom (who is the person making all the beautiful hand-made things throughout the cabin) made for the story telling. 🙂
Enjoying learning through games
What we learn with pleasure we never forget. ~ Alfred Mercier
While in the forest we do plenty of active games, such as chases, races, jumping, climbing. And outside of that children are usually engaged in some imaginative play.
During our bird unit these chasing, racing, climbing and jumping games took on a bird-themed spin keeping learning fun and active and without taking away from children’s free and active play, but instead being a part of it.
Our third and fourth weeks of January were about nests and feathers. One of forest activities was building with the children these amazing nests. The kids absolutely enjoyed sitting in them and playing baby chicks and mother bird.
Here on our Instagram feed you can watch a short video of the kids working on the nest building.
Nurturing care for the natural world
An ongoing theme in our curriculums is to foster in children appreciation for the natural world as well as help them find a ways to care for it.
In the course of this bird learning unit the children learned about what different types of birds eat as well as that in the winter finding food could be extremely challenging for our little feathered friends. So making bird feeders as one of our crafts was a natural choice.
One feeder was made using oranges. We didn’t take photos to share here, but it was similar to these. The best part of the project for the kids was probably getting the inside of the orange out and eating it 🙂 . The birds were also attracted to them very quickly, but sadly the orange peels didn’t hold up more than a couple days. We aren’t sure if it was birds, raccoons or deer who tore them apart.
We also made popcorn strings and hung them outside on a tree. It was a great craft for the children, giving them an opportunity to practice dexterity and precision of the kind they don’t otherwise practice frequently in their daily play. As far as the birds go — we weren’t sure how much they enjoyed the popcorn. But someone did eat all the garlands we hung outside on the trees.
The third type of DIY bird feeder was a pine cone + peanut butter + seeds feeder (something like these). Although the Pinterest pictures suggest this feeder does work for the birds, the last time we made them during the summer the pine cones got eaten by a raccoon instead 🙂 But the kids do enjoy making them.
Supporting a wonderful local business
We also bought a couple of bird feeders and hung them on the trees outside the school cabin, so we can feed the birds throughout the winter as a regular activity with the children. If you live in Colorado Springs, we highly recommend Songbird Supplies store located in Old Colorado City for all things bird related instead of buying them at Home Depot or Ace Hardware, etc. Through shopping there you will be supporting a wonderful local business and the owner is a lot of fun to talk to. He is very knowledgable about birds and will advise on best seeds and feeders for your area, and he also has lots of bird decor as well as educational posters.
That’s all I’m going to share in this blog post, but part 2 and 3 in these series should be coming soon with more beautiful bird-themed arts and crafts project and some great resources, such as the kids’ most beloved bird books, educational posters and more.
Please come back soon and leave us a comment with any ideas or resources you might know of for teaching children about birds.