Why teach urban birds?

So, we’ve been talking a lot about birds – why would you teach birds in your classroom? Here are some great reasons to study and observe birds with your students:

  • Ducklings provide an opportunity to talk about animal families

    Birds are part of your science curriculum. In New York City, you can link birds to your study of animals (K), animal diversity (1st), plant and animal adaptations (3rd), animals and plants in their environments (4th), ecosystems (5th), diversity of life (6th), dynamic equilibrium (7th), reproduction, heredity, and evolution (8th)… You could also link birds and their habitats to your social studies units on family and community.

  • Using a field guide to match a bird you can see to its name is a great opportunity to learn about descriptive adjectives and classification, something that students in New York City study from PK up.

This is a scene you could see in New York City!

  • Lots of kids think there is no nature in a city. That’s totally incorrect – even when nature has been altered by human impact, the natural world is present in cities and forests alike. Going outside to look for birds (or other animals and plants) helps kids see that nature does exist in the city.
  • Kids are already fascinated by birds – they fly! You can use their curiosity as a hook to help students get interested in the natural world in general.
  • Birds could be part of your civics study – what is the national bird? What is your state bird? This is information your students will take pride in knowing!
  • Will you find a yellow warbler while birding?

    Going birding – looking for birds – is an excuse for walking around (maybe even hiking) and it’s always great to encourage physical activity, especially if you give kids a new reason for physical activity. You might have a kid who is really into birds discover that she is really into hiking as well!

  • Birding teaches soft, useful skills like patience and observation. You can also tell stories of adaptation and creativity through stories like that of Pale Male, osprey in New York City, or the birds in Urban Roosts.

What other great reasons can you think of? Let us know why you teach birding with your students or children!

The White House Garden and Let’s Move!

Moving away from Brooklyn, you could include the current White House Garden in your garden study. It is traditional for the First Lady to adopt a cause and promote it throughout her term as First Lady. With Laura Bush, a former librarian, the cause was books and literacy. With Michelle Obama, a notoriously fit woman, the cause is healthy lifestyles including physical activity and eating well. Lots more information can be found on the Let’s Move! website, but here are some ideas you might use in your classroom.

  • There’s a children’s book about the White House Garden, First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robin Gourley. The book covers historical gardens at the White House including John Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II, but then spends the bulk of the time on Mrs. Obama and the process she and the current garden went through. Students will link their own gardening experience to hers and learn about the current garden at the White House.
  • The Let’s Move! website has 5 simple steps for schools, 5 steps for parents, 5 steps for kids, and steps for others (chefs, health care providers) that really help individuals kick-start their health initiatives. Check out the one for schools, which includes a plan to help start a garden.
  • If you are in Washington, DC, tours of the garden are offered in the spring and fall. Information about the fall tours this past October is available on the White House’s website, which is where future tour dates will be announced.
  • For day care centers, check out Let’s Move Childcare with ideas for encouraging a healthy lifestyle at your day care center.
  • There are lots of resources for eating healthy and planning meals which you could use to plan a parent’s night.
  • In addition, there’s an official cookbook, A White House Garden Cookbook: Healthy Ideas from the First Family to Your Family by Clara Silverstein.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Brooklyn Children’s Museum is part of all this, as a member of Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens. Check back for future details about what Brooklyn Children’s Museum is doing to help kids live a healthy and active life.