Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Encouraging Fledglings

Every year I introduce birdwatching to families in our Wonderworks (STEAM) Storytime ) and encourage them to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s bird count is this weekend — February 12-15, 2016 — which is a long weekend for many people. My  interest stems from my family’s experience of participating in Project Feederwatch, in which you count birds in your yard over a series of months (November-April). The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great introduction to citizen science as it requires only a very brief time commitment. It takes place over four days, but you can count just once, just for 15 minutes, or every day. You can count on a visit to a park or on a wintery hike, or in your backyard. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (the same folks as sponsor project Feederwatch) the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. It’s grown into a global phenomenon, as you can see from a map showing last year’s participants, who counted over 8 million individual birds.gbbc-2015This year they are encouraging experienced birdwatchers to introduce young people (fledglings) to birdwatching — to take the pledge to fledge. It’s easy to join in this worldwide phenomenon — instructions and bird guides are available online.

In storytime, I read Simon James The Birdwatchers and About Birds: A Guide for Children by Catherine Sill, illustrated by John Sill (2nd editon; Peachtree Publishers, 2013)About birds

Next the children made birdfeeders with paper towel rolls, crisco, and birdseed.

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I also introduced children to the Merlin Bird Identification app (free, iOS & Android) which helps identify birds. It is very child-friendly, requiring very little reading. The app asks for the size of bird, then gives a range for them to choose from. It ask for up to 3 colors spotted, and where the bird was seen (on the ground, at a feeder, in flight). After a few questions, the app returns a list of possible birds sighted. IMG_9196

 

For each bird, it includes bird calls as well. We identified one bird together  — I told them I had seen one on my way into work that day. I had four iPads with the apps for them to experiment with, with their grownup’s help. Some used a bird book to test out the app; others used the Great Backyard Bird Count poster to see if they could identify the bird depicted (a nuthatch!)

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The interaction between parents and children was genuine and all seemed to really enjoy the activity — one even downloaded it for their phone before leaving the program!

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Why don’t you try out Merlin & join the world in counting birds this weekend? It’s fun and easy and you’ll be contributing to science!

 

 

 

 

 

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This one’s for the birds!

In a recent STEM storytime we explored birds you might see in your own backyard this winter. We read Simon James’ The Birdwatchers, in which a little girl goes birdwatching with her grandfather.

We found out more about birds in Carol Lerner’s Backyard Birds of Winter and from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Birding in Ohio site.

Another great book for budding scientists is Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns, which has a different project for each season of the year (and includes birdwatching for winter.)

You can be a citizen scientist this weekend by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15-18. It’s easy enough that kids can participate too — it’s free, fun, and you’ll be sharing your sightings with others around the world. Last year 17.4 million birds were counted!

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