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Nesting, Nests and Building a Home for Birds

Elementary

Description

The nesting habits of birds are examined in this inquiry-based lesson that cultivates curiosity and promotes respect for the natural world.   As students explore the unique features of bird nests they actively participate in the learning process through a series of hands-on activities that involve:

  • Creating models of bird nests.
  • Testing the protective capabilities of various nest designs against weather.
  • Comparing and contrasting bird nests to human homes.
  • Describing how birds interact with their environment.
  • Analyzing experimental results.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Observing.
  • Predicting.
  • Inferring.
  • Classifying.
  • Expressing ideas.
  • Problem solving.

Strengths

  • Promotes inquiry.
  • Although an outdoor component is not described in the lesson it can be easily incorporated into the learning experience.
  • Strong cross-curricular links between Science, Math and Social Studies.
  • Fosters curiosity about the natural world.
  • Hands-on learning.

Weaknesses

  • Does not provide background information for teachers or students.
  • No formal assessment strategies.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson supports the teaching of a number of Science and Social Studies outcomes related to biodiversity, interactions in nature and animal life cycles.  A key strength of the lesson is the use of an inquiry process that builds science experimentation skills.  Through outdoor observation a class could maintain a list of birds that nest around the school and publicize this information on a community website.  An outdoor science experiment could also have students placing various types of materials such as pet hair in a local green space and monitoring which items are favoured by nesting birds.

The unit also provides an excellent introduction to a school action project focused on building and installing bluebird or tree swallow nesting boxes within the local community.  A cross curricular approach could have students building math skills by measuring wood pieces, enhancing life skills through construction and developing science and ELA skills by maintaining written records about nest box use.

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Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity
    • Interdependence

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Students are able to develop a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationships between animals and their habitats through inquiry.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Graphic organizers are used to encourage higher-level reasoning and provide a framework for students to explore and communicate ideas about interactions and interdependence between wildlife, humans and the environment.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The experimental approach in which students create and test different nest structures supports creative problem solving and critical analysis of scientific information.  This new knowledge is applied to a real world task that has students design and build a nest to support marble “eggs”.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

There are no specific action projects in this learning unit but a class could explore opportunities for supporting songbird conservation through activities like Backyard Bird Counts or building nest boxes to be placed in a local habitat.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

The resource theme creates empathy for the survival challenges faced by wildlife and promotes a closer relationship with the natural world.  Therefore, students could be inspired to turn science into action through personal conservation goals like reduced plastic use.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Although this resource is nature based, an interesting social studies component could be included during the comparisons between bird homes and human homes.   As students recognize the variety in bird nests, a teacher could include information about houses in other countries to illustrate the tremendous human diversity of our world.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Studying the details of nest building encourages a closer relationship with birds that could be supported by a class field trip to observe wild species during the nesting season.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

This unit examines bird nests from the perspective of the local environment and the types of materials that are available to build these structures.  A volunteer birdwatcher could also take the class on a nature walk to a community park to look and listen for common bird species found near the school.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered

Older students could explore how conservation measures have successfully reversed declines in some bird species like Bald Eagles.  Younger students could view one of the many “nest cams” that are located in Canadian cities with a follow up discussion about human impacts on wildlife.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The focus on inquiry creates an  environment for problem solving in which students are able to hypothesize and test designs while articulating their reasoning.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

The experimental process supports general science outcomes while addressing specific content related to animal life cycles, seasonal changes and how animals meet their needs.   As students conduct their nest building and testing they also use math concepts such as counting, measuring and graphing.   The lesson provides an opportunity for students to engage in discussions about how humans interact with the natural world and the role of stewardship in maintaining a healthy environment.  Visual Arts skills are used to design, create and sketch nests.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Very Good

The use of knowledge building circles, graphic organizers and experimentation fosters self-directed learning where students are actively involved in the exploration of the topic.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

The hands-on approach creates an inclusive learning environment where all students are able to actively engage with the content.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The experimental process which includes thoughtful reflection provides an in-depth learning experience whereby students are able to apply new knowledge to solve the real-world problem of creating a nest that can support eggs.  The experiential aspect of this unit could be enhanced with an outdoor focus that has students observe nesting behaviors of wild birds in the schoolyard.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Small groups are used for the nest building experiments and during this phase of the lesson the students are able to problem solve collaboratively

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Open ended questions provide the framework for informal assessment and the final nest building project could be used as a summative assessment of learning.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

Students use communication skills to share information about their individual nest designs which consolidates their learning and demonstrates their understanding of the topic.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

This topic is easily adapted to suit particular regions by selecting bird species and nest types specific to local habitats.   An interesting extension to the lesson could have a class visit a protected natural area to learn more about local breeding bird species threatened by human activity.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

Students are able to create their own nest designs based on a scientific process that supports independent thinking.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.