Monarch Watch

Speaking of fall, have you seen any monarch butterflies lately? Monarchs are amazing – they travel as much as 3,000 miles, making them the butterflies with the longest migration in the world and the only butterflies to make a long migration twice each year. Monarch butterflies migrate through New York City on their way to Mexico every fall and come back every spring. Peak season for them passing through New York City is early October, so you may have missed them for this year, but here is some information about monarchs anyway. Keep an eye out as there may still be some around, or wait for spring to see them again!

Monarch Watch is a hub for all things monarch. It has amazing resources, including the following:

Some of these resources may be a little old for early childhood, but the gardening and observation element is ideal for all ages. Butterflies are great for teaching about habitat, insect life cycles, and animal diversity.

Another great website out there is the Monarch Monitoring Project, produced by the New Jersey Audubon Department.  Cape May, NJ is the southernmost point in Jersey. It has well maintained marshes and dunes and is along the coast, so it attracts huge numbers of migratory birds and monarchs, too! The blog is great for upper elementary students. It features bar graphs of monarchs spotted each week during migration season, beautiful photographs, and lots of scientific information.

Do you know other monarch resources? What’s your favorite monarch observation spot in New York City?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Today, I want to share with you some of the amazing resources from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is the birds team at Cornell University. Their main website – www.birds.cornell.edu – has all kinds of neat information and cool resources for kids and adults. Here are the four most applicable to the early childhood or elementary classroom:

  1. Celebrate Urban Birds: Here, you can order a free guide to urban birds. Once you have used the materials in the guide to identify common urban birds, the next step is to take students outdoors to look for signs of these birds and then submit your data back to Cornell to be added to their database. This is called citizen science – which is when people who are not professional scientists provide information to help science researchers.
  2. Project Pigeon Watch: Pigeons are omnipresent in New York City and yet we overlook them as a source of teaching about nature. The activities in Project Pigeon Watch will help you learn about pigeon coloring and behavior and the enable you to study local pigeons and submit that information to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, another instance of citizen science.
  3. Bird Physics: Download the teacher’s guide and the students’ sheets on the main page. Then, you can use the guide to teach lessons about adaptations, sound as energy, how birds sing, bird beaks, and how feathers affect flight. These lessons are great and will really get kids to understand the concepts involved.
  4. BirdSleuth: Designed for teachers or homeschool parents, BirdSleuth has a number of options for curriculum. Discover Birds! (grades 1-4) covers birds, their parts, their habitat and gets you to look for birds in your neighborhood. This one does cost a little money, but the kit is only $24.95.

Have you used any of these resources in your classroom? How would you plan to incorporate the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s amazing resources into your curriculum?