Our Bird Unit

We did a naturalist unit for science this semester giving me a chance to teach/learn about the local fauna and flora.  Part of that unit included birds. Following are the various resources that I used for the unit.

The first and favorite were the picture books. We read a great number of books, but these were my favorites.
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A Nest is Noisy and An Egg is Quiet both by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. These books, of which there are several not all having to do with birds, are gorgeously illustrated and have wonderfully interesting and beautifully expressed information.  They are now favorites at our house, and a sweet discovery on this naturalist unit journey. So much so that I purchased the set of them for my kids for Easter.


Flute’s Journey written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry and The Peregrine’s Journey: A Story of Migration written by Madeleine Dunphy and illustrated by Kristin Kest are both stories of a bird’s migration.  These books are two classic examples of what I think of when I think of Charlotte Mason’s speak of living books.  They both are in story telling mode, but Flute’s journey in particular seems so personal and thus easy to relate to. It also illustrates and briefly speaks on a number of migrating song birds other than Flute, who happens to be a wood thrush.

Let’s Read and Find Out Science series are great books in general for science. They are written for about kindergarten to around third grade. Giving great detail, but in a way that is easily understood and digested is this series’ forte. How Do Birds Find Their Way? and A Nest Full of Eggs are two great examples of this.  The first explains what we know of migration for birds, and the second goes through anatomy and the life cycle of birds.

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Gail Gibbons has fabulous books with wonderful amounts of useful and interesting information.  Her book, Owls is no exception. She may have others on birds, which we didn’t read, but that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.  She is a fabulous author.

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Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring is my last favorite picture book.  There are also several of these Tag-Along Guides that serves as quick, cute little nature guides.  This has information for young ones about bird anatomy and lists several pictures of birds, nests, and eggs that one might see in North America with guide-like information to accompany them.  This is another great little series for kids.

Though my middle-schooler read several of the picture books because they are just so enjoyable and many had good information, there were a couple of books that I checked out at the library just for him.  Screenshot_2017-04-11-19-33-48

We used Birdology by Monica Russo for all of the four weeks that we focused on birds.  This book is written for the upper elementary, middle school age range. in addition to good information, it also contains projects.  Many are simple, but we expanded some, such as the adaptation lab. I used a friends lab as an example to give a little more nuance and information focusing on bird beaks and their adaptation for different foods.

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This book!  The photographs in this book were amazing.  The Owl and the Woodpecker by Paul Bannick was a book that we might have read some, but the pictures were so captivating that we spend most of our time mesmerizing over the photographs.  People of all ages will enjoy this book.

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What the Robin Knows by Jon Young is our read aloud for the entire naturalist unit.  We have learned so much from this book, the most important was awareness in the natural world teaches much.  This came recommended in another book that I was reading, How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Sampson. This is definitely an adult book, and though my 12-year-old enjoys it, sometimes the reading time is limited to maintain his interest. It does not always hold my younger child’s interest, and she will wander off to do other things while we are reading. Even so the book is valuable, and I would have read it just to pass on the information that I was learning.

In addition to reading and learning to identify birds, we also learned to bird by ear.  I used two resources for this. In the car we listened to the Petersons Field Guide’s Birding by Ear.  We also used this fabulous phone app by Cornell University that allowed us to identify birds, see pictures, maps of their distribution, and hear their varying calls. I highly recommend both of these.  The app is free.

I also purchased a few games and flashcards to go along with our unit.  Birdcage has several “go fish” cards many for art. I purchased a set for North American Birds.  They had another set for Backyard birds that I did not buy.  I played Go Fish as intended with my youngest, but I like to play Rummy with my older one with these card sets. Rummy makes the play a little more complicated, more competitive, and more strategic, which holds his interest.  I also purchased the Sibling’s Backyard Birding Flashcards.  They contain 100 birds of North America, most of which are found in the Southeast, where we are located. This is a gorgeous set, which has great information on the back of the card about the bird, it’s call, distribution, and habitat the species is found it. And of course, like all of Sibly’s books, the cards are so beautifully illustrated.  The Bird Bingowe played a few times, but it didn’t really hold my children’s interest. They aren’t really into Bingo.  I did end up using the cards in the labs described above, so they turned out useful to me anyway.

Last and not pictured are the resources that mostly I used as resources for bird identification and information and for maintaining and drawing in our nature journals, which is part of our unit.  My middle schooler did read a pieces that I picked out here and there, but the purpose of the books was mostly resource.

Law’s Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Law
Another fabulous books with great drawing instruction and beautiful illustrations. Our library has a copy, but I went ahead and purchased it for myself to have through the whole unit.

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You  by Clare Walker Leslie
This was a more informal book about keeping a nature journal. What I loved about this book is that it showed a contrast to the previous book giving different style and journaling and drawing.  This books showed more sketches and gave ideas of what a journal might look like with plenty of journal exerts for examples.

The Sibly Guide to Birds by David Sibling and Florida’s Birds by David Maehr were the two guidebooks that I used for bird identification.  I used to count shorebird a lifetime ago in my professional science career.  The Sibly’s books are my go to books for birds. He is a great illustrator, and the books are well-written and organized.  The latter book was great about narrowing our bird choices for our area.

These were the books, app, games, and CDs that we used for our nature unit. We had a fabulous time. Though we have moved on to trees now, birds are in our hearts, and we are continuing to learn and enjoy them even if they are no long our main focus.

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