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Fly Away Home!

Elementary, Middle


Bird migration is explored in this lesson that has students creating paper airplane "birds" that must navigate their way through a fragmented landscape as they fly to their breeding grounds. A dynamic approach supports action as learners recognize how wildlife populations can be significantly affected by human activities. This fun and lively resource also provides an opportunity to become involved in conservation while students:

  • Investigate the role of migration as a behavioural adaptation for bird survival.
  • Analyze population declines as model "birds" fly through fragmented landscapes.
  • Hypothesize how human activities can contribute to species extinctions.
  • Identify habitat conservation actions.
  • Communicate concerns about habitat loss through a letter writing campaign.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Analysis of scientific information
  • Inference
  • Communication
  • Letter writing


  • Provides students with tools for becoming conservation ambassadors.
  • Creative and highly engaging learning experience.
  • Background information and worksheets included with the resource.


  • A rubric for evaluating written letters would enhance summative assessment.
  • There is limited information about common waterfowl species in the Prairie Pothole region.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports science outcomes related to animal behavioural adaptations, animal life cycles and interactions in ecosystems.  The lesson also actively involves students in considering how habitat loss can contribute to declines and extinctions of wildlife.  The letter writing exercise supports English Language Arts outcomes while providing an authentic conservation experience.

A class could develop an action project centered around nesting habitat for spring birds. Tree swallow boxes could be constructed and placed in a local wetland. Creating a butterfly garden on school grounds would support migrating Monarchs and other pollinators.  Native trees that provide food for migrating birds could also be planted in a local green space.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (1)

  • General Guide to Taking Action

Ecosystems (4)

  • Appreciating the Natural World
  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat Loss
  • Wildlife Protection

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Students are able to explore scientific cause and effect relationships and use this information to describe interactions within ecosystems and develop new ideas about conservation.

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

The lesson highlights the value of the Prairie Pothole region as a vital staging and nesting area for many bird species.  Students also gain new insight into the human benefits of conserving wetlands which provide key social functions such as flood control,

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

Students are able to explore cause and effect in relation to landscape fragmentation and animal survival. Thus they will be able to develop an increased understanding of the complex relationships between humans and wildlife.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Good

An important component of this resource is the letter writing to the federal Minister of Environment where students express their own opinions about habitat conservation.  This positive activity teaches students that they can become ambassadors for conservation.

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

Learners are motivated to develop and express their own ideas about how they can positively impact the sustainability of our planet through involvement in environmental protection.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
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

Extending the lesson by taking a class outside to observe birds in a local habitat will deepen their connection to nature and strengthen connections to the topic.  The resource also includes information about planting a habitat garden at school which would engage students in an outdoor experience that benefits wildlife.

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 Satisfactory

This resource can be easily adapted to contain information about migratory bird populations in any area of Canada which will reinforce content on a local level.

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 Satisfactory

There is an emphasis on positive action to change the future and that we can all be involved in habitat conservation.

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

This activity uses a constructivist approach where students are able to use scientific data to draw their own conclusions and theories about habitat loss.  They are also encouraged to express ideas and communicate strategies for wildlife protection.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

The science content also complements Social Studies discussions about sustainability and global issues.  The letter writing supports many English Language Arts outcomes related to communication.

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 Good

Students use science process skills such as inference and prediction to actively engage with the content and deepen their understanding of their responsibilities as environmental citizens.

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 Satisfactory

Although there are no specific adaptations for differentiation, the hands-on approach will appeal to a wide range of learners.

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 challenge of moving their "birds" through a fragmented landscape encourages students to take the initiative in asking and testing questions while making new discoveries.

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
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

The student worksheet which helps students prepare their letters can be used as summative assessment.  Frequent open-ended questions support formative assessment of understanding.

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 Poor/Not considered
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 Good

Landscape fragmentation is one of the most pressing issues facing wildlife populations in Canada and the World.  Many species extinctions can be directly connected to habitat loss.

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 Satisfactory
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.