Birding in the Garden
Katherine StudeyJunior High School ScienceMaryland Elementary School
This lesson was initially used with 3rd-6th grade students in an urban school setting (Central Phoenix). It was part of the curriculum taught during the regular school day and with an after school nature club. I have used modified versions of this lesson for students as low as 2nd grade and as high as 8th. For lower grades, I focus more on the bird identification with easy to identify birds, and I provide pictures as guides for students. For higher grades, we can get more in depth with discussions about biodiversity as we look at the number and types of birds present. This has also led to interesting discussions about non-native species (European starlings and house sparrows, for example) and what can be done about them.
Although I have always been interested in birds, I was not what you would call an expert when I started teaching this lesson. Over the years, I have learned more about birds alongside my students. It can seem intimidating at first if you are not a birder, but apps like Merlin and traditional printed field guides can really help with identification.
Lesson: Birding in the Garden
Arizona Science Standards (AzSS):
5.L4U3.11: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate evidence about how natural and human-caused changes to habitats or climate can impact populations.
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):
3-LS4-3: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
3-LS4-4: Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.
This lesson was initially created as an assignment for a biodiversity course I was taking in graduate school. As I was developing the lesson for my class, I wanted to connect it with local wildlife that students could relate to. I was also looking for ways to get my students engaged in learning outside because I had recently learned about the benefits of outdoor learning for kids. I frequently observed birds on my school campus, and I knew that they would be easily accessible for students.
This lesson can lead to additional questions from students about how we can best support the various bird species on our campus. It opens up many possible avenues for inquiry and investigation. By introducing students to the local birds, I hoped that some of them would become more interested in bird watching on their own time, too. It has the potential to build a lifelong interest in birds which can then extend to other local wildlife.
When you implement this lesson consider...
Ecoregion School Garden Site
Who are the garden leaders?
The community the school serves and its history.Maryland Elementary School, built in the 1950s, is in the Washington Elementary School District. The school is located at 21st Ave and Glendale in central Phoenix, Arizona. Our school community is very diverse, and we support students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Maryland is a Title I school with over 95% of students receiving free or reduced lunch.
Connections to Ecoregion Topics
Designing for Science Teaching: This lesson also sparks students’ interest in the natural world through observation, and it gives an opportunity for real-world examples of science in action. It encourages students to ask questions that may develop into additional investigations.