Birds are interesting. Large and small, subdued and extraordinary, there is such a range of this amazing group of animals. Most of us know someone who is obsessed with birds, bringing binoculars everywhere, just in case there is a bird in the vicinity.
Since we spend so much time outside at Progress School, we are very observant of the wildlife sharing our space. We have regular visits from cardinals, blue jays, mockingbirds and hawks. Every now and then we spot a heron in the creek or vultures circling in the sky.
Our copy of the Audubon book of North American birds was a great resource, along with several versions of Texas bird guides.
Within the pages of our many resource books, we found inspiration for our Bird Sanctuary diorama.
Our birds were clearly not made to scale, which prompted many amusing conversations. Can you imagine what it would be like to be driving along and come across a roadrunner that is bigger than your car?
We studied features of birds and their anatomy and explored the questions we had about birds: Which birds do not fly? Why do some birds fly and others don’t? Which birds live in the water? What do different birds eat? How do birds stay warm in the winter?
We made bird feeders out of milk cartons and looked at designs for bird houses to construct in the wood shop for ongoing projects. Each art project was accompanied by detailed discussions about different birds.
We learned some interesting facts about birds:
- Fastest land bird – the ostrich – up to 45 mph!
- Largest egg – ostrich egg
- Largest nest – bald eagle’s nest – 9 feet wide and 20 feet deep!
- Longest wingspan – albatross – 11 feet, which we measured out, and that is quite a large bird!
Some of our favorite birds include the cardinal, the blue jay, the bald eagle, and the blue-footed booby!
We carefully prepare the environment to provide students with resources that pique their interest in a variety of subject matters. To that end, we keep our shelves stocked with all manner of objects: books, math manipulatives, and natural specimens. One day recently, a student picked up our dried starfish specimen from the shelf and began to examine it. “How do starfish eat, anyway?” he pondered. Let’s find out…
The encyclopedia revealed this explanation, as retold by the student:
The starfish uses its arms to grab its prey and pulls it apart and closer to the hole in the middle. It has this part of its stomach that comes out and surrounds the food and pulls it inside its body to eat it.
This website yielded a similar explanation.
We found this video to watch a starfish eating.
We decided to draw a picture to explain to others how starfish eat.
It is within this inquiry-based framework that much of the learning at our school (and in the child’s world!) takes place. From this single question, sparked from a child’s natural curiosity about his surroundings, so much learning took place: we utilized a variety of resources to gather information, the student had the opportunity to practice reading and writing for a relevant purpose, and the student rephrased and summarized information for his peers. And it was fun!
This is one of our favorite units ever. Our students’ interest in space is such that we manage to talk about it no matter what else we are studying. This unit provided a wonderful opportunity to go into greater depth.
The topic of black holes drove much of our inquiry. From the first week of school, one of the students had become fascinated with supernovas and black holes. How big is a black hole? What is inside of a black hole? Will our sun become a black hole? What would happen to you if you got close to a black hole? How are black holes and supernovas related?
Here is are some of the short videos we watched: What’s Inside of a Black Hole? , the relative sizes of celestial bodies, from our moon to the largest known star in the universe, a video about Jupiter, and one about constellations.
We learned about atmosphere and weather, relating Jupiter’s great storm to hurricanes on earth. We made our own cloud in a bottle and conducted experiments and demonstrations on gravity, inertia, centripetal/centrifugal force and light.