Boston educators go birding!

by Ana Maria Caballero McGuire, Children’s Education Fellow

November 7, 2016

Mockingbird by Robert Mayer

Boston educators go birding!

Boston Educators Go Birding

Bird walk with Boston teachers

Boston teachers learn basic birding skills with Bob Mayer.

This past Saturday, November 5th, several Boston area teachers joined long time volunteer Bob Mayer for an introductory bird walk and talk along Meadow Road. This event, the second in a year-long series of Arboretum for Educators, aimed to give teachers many ideas and resources for an in depth bird unit with students. Teachers learned to use the Merlin app to help with bird identification, and then donned binoculars to help with their search. Even though it was cloudy and cold, participants were able to see and identify, with Bob’s help, 15 different birds, among them a dark eyed junco, three white-throated sparrows, and one downy woodpecker. Many teachers began planning ways to entice birds to their schools with bird feeders, as well as walks around their schools and the Arboretum.

bird beak simulation

Teachers experiment with tools simulating bird beaks.

Teachers also participated in a bird beak simulation activity designed to help students understand concepts of form and function, adaptation, food sharing and competition, habitat, and eating behaviors. Trays with several every day tools were laid out next to specific types of “food” to be eaten by “birds.” For example, a tray with a tree log containing rice and lentils hidden in the bark and crevices was matched up with an eye dropper, tongs, and tweezers. Another tray contained plastic pegs hidden in a bowl of breadcrumbs to simulate invertebrates in mud and shallow waters. This tray was paired up with a strainer, clothespin, and chopsticks. Teachers understood that not only is it important for students to choose the “correct” tool, but to also articulate why the other tools wouldn’t work.

Educators enjoyed looking through the many lovely children’s picture books, informational books, and biographies, and sharing ideas of how to use them meaningfully in a study of birds in the classroom. Even a well curated collection of bird beanie babies became a source of ideas for activities and hands-on exploration for learning by even the youngest “birders.” Teachers walked away energized and ready to bring the outdoors in for teaching, and take children outdoors for authentic science learning.

Join us next month, December 3rd, as we explore Tree Architecture.

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