Need a break from indoor learning? Take teaching outside with a birding safari!
Apr 29, 2020
Many of us are spending most of our days indoors, social-distancing, and looking for safe ways to recharge. Since we’re not running around from place to place, we have more time to watch what’s going on outside our windows – or up in the trees!
Getting the kids outside will not only boost their spirits and confidence, it will enhance their learning and connection to the environment where they live. When we commune with nature, we grow to understand the importance of the living things around us.
According to the folks at Outdoor Classroom Day, which is on May 21 this year, 88% of teachers say that children are more engaged in learning when taking lessons outdoors. “Individuals who feel inhibited by the curriculum often thrive in an outdoor environment,” they report.
Birding is an ideal way to introduce children to the outdoor world. By taking advantage of their natural curiosity and sense of adventure, you can help them listen and observe what’s happening right in their backyard or neighborhood. Spring is nesting season, so the time is perfect for listening to the increasingly energetic calls of mating birds, watching them gather nesting materials, and observing male and female birds and their growing bird families.
Here are some simple ways to get kids started on their birding safari:
Set up a bird-friendly garden. Kids can help choose which tree to hang a feeder, where to place a bird bath, and can help mount a bird house – all of these will greatly enhance bird-visiting opportunities. Planting native, bird-loving plants will attract and provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
Choose an observation post. For 20 minutes each day, have your child pick an outdoor spot to sit, where they can write or draw their observations or where you can assist them by asking questions and taking notes for them. You can help them identify birds by using a chart or field guide. Visit the Wild Bird Center website for bird identification information.
Take a hike. Go on an outdoor bird scavenger hunt and see how many different birds you can find. Let the kids decide where to go – birds can be found almost anywhere: in city streets, parks, yards and nature preserves. If you live near water, you will see even more varieties. It doesn’t have to happen all on one hike: see how long it takes to find 20 different varieties, what time of day more birds seem to appear, or how many come out after a rainstorm. Binoculars can help them see things they may not otherwise.
Listen for the calls. First, ask kids to imitate the bird sounds they hear. It’s fun to hear their interpretations. Afterward, use a field guide app to play back clips and identify the birds.
Take pictures. Keep track of what you’ve seen with photos to help you identify them. It’s also a fun way to remember and look back at your finds.
Follow up with research. Why is a bird a certain color? What physical characteristics – such as their beaks – determine the types of food they eat? Researching why certain birds look and act the way they do gives kids more incentive to quietly observe wildlife. They also will learn what habitats birds are attracted to and the many bird varieties that live in their area as well as the migrating birds that just stop by for a visit.
Learning opportunities are everywhere – you can use them to inspire your child’s appreciation for nature and give you a much-needed reason to get outside and refresh!
Photos by Carla Mason