November 10, 2022
Today we have a guest blog post to share with you from author, Jennifer Doyle. Jennifer shares our passion for deepening children's connection to nature and we can personally vouch for her books as being a perfect starting point for linking the curriculum with bird watching. If you enjoy this blog post please do go and check out Jennifer's free resources (linked further into the blog post) and read to the end to see how you can combine your everyday lessons with birdwatching in KS1 & KS2! Over to you Jennifer!
I've always been a huge advocate for children learning from nature. Since my two children were very small, our best days out have always been outside with a picnic, climbing trees, or searching for wildlife in our local woodlands. So when we ended up in lockdown in 2020, we actually loved spending so much time in our back garden and exploring our local area as spring sprung around us.
Just before the lockdown, my mum and son had been shopping and bought a few bird feeders to put up together around our tiny garden. As our busy world slowed down and I spent time outdoors with the children, we really started to notice the different types of birds the bird feeders were attracting. My 7 year old daughter and I downloaded a bird identification sheet from the internet and became intent on attracting each of the species that featured in the pictures.
This simple activity opened a new world to us, it inspired me to write my children's book series, Billy the Blackbird, and created opportunities for me to start delivering primary school workshops to educate children about different bird species, their behaviours and characteristics whilst supporting science, geography, English and DT curriculums around animal groups, diets, creative writing and building bird feeders.
What are the benefits of bird watching for young children?
The benefits of learning outdoors are greatly documented, both within this blog and multiple scientific and scholarly articles. Bird watching takes children outdoors, into the stillness and can be done from anywhere, even schools in city centres without gardens can attract birds for their pupils to watch by creating an abundant source of food, and children will be amazed at the different varieties of birds that can be attracted to different feeders and the relationships between the different species.
There are an abundance of methods to build bird feeders, baths and houses and create wildlife friendly areas around your school and it won't take long for nature to move in once it has been created. The observation of these areas can support EYFS, KS1 and KS2 throughout the academic year.
How can we apply bird watching to different parts of the primary curriculum?
Bird watching can support a range of curriculum journeys including science, geography, DT and food tech as we look at habitats, diets and behaviours of birds during the winter, spring, summer and autumn.
The principal focus of science teaching in key stage 1 is to enable pupils to "experience and observe phenomena, looking more closely at the natural and humanly constructed world around them." ( Department of Education KS1 Curriculum 2013) Statutory requirements include being able to identify different animal groups, understanding seasonal changes, plants and everyday materials.
Study of birds, their characteristics and diets can help to support all areas of this framework. Observing different birds and their characteristics can help with identifying carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, whilst activities such as building a bird feeder or looking at nest construction will support the scientific thinking behind the use of everyday materials. Birds and their digestion of seeds and berries can show how plants can grow naturally in different environments and the migratory behaviour and different seasonal feeding needs of birds can support the teaching of seasonal changes and habitats.
At KS2, as the curriculum deepens learners' knowledge about living things and their habitats, animals and uses of everyday materials, we can continue to use bird watching as a method to promote deeper thinking skills and create conclusions and evaluations.
Some examples of focus questions you could use with children over the seasons might be:
- What materials would work best for a nest?
- How can birds construct their nests?
- Where would be the safest place to build a nest?
- Why do we hang bird feeders up high?
- What predators do we need to be careful of?
- Where do birds come from?
- How do they keep safe once they have hatched?
- How and when do they grow their flying feathers?
- What do baby birds need to survive?
- Where do birds feature in the food chain?
The opportunities for discussion are limitless and from my experience, primary children thrive in these thematic discussions from which they often have first hand experience; many children will have watched the birds in their gardens with their parents or grandparents.
Throughout the key stages, there are also several opportunities for activities that can be tailored to the area of the curriculum you are concentrating on. These could include:
· building a bird feeder or bird box (cross curricular DT)
· making fat balls or experimenting with other types of bird food (cross-curricular food tech)
· bird identification charts and tallies (cross curricular maths)
· construction of wildlife patch
· exploration of a local park or school grounds looking for bird friendly habitats (cross curricular geography)
· seed scattering
· bird fact files (cross curricular English)
· bird food chains
· nature cams to observe hatching
How can we find out more?
Hopefully that’s given you a little flavour of what bird watching can offer your children in school. There are also lots of resources available through my website, www.billytheblackbird.com, which will help to engage primary school learners in the birds in their local areas. I also offer a range of virtual, recorded or in person workshops. To find out more please email : email@example.com or follow Billy on social media @billytheblackbird