Our Feathered Friends
Downy feathers the color of rain clouds litter the landscape around our home. Soft cooing can be heard from the eaves of the house. Wings whistle as birds take to the sky. Yes, it is almost autumn in Missouri, and it is dove season. Mourning doves are the first species of birds we have chosen to investigate. Bird study is a new tradition for us, one I hope to continue through the different seasons. Birding is a pastime that gets us outside in nature, moving through the forest or prairie, breathing fresh air and enjoying life. Bird studies are interdisciplinary, so kids can work on reading, writing, science, art, physical education, and geography over the course of one study. Most of all, it’s a fun way to spend time outdoors as a family.
Here’s how we are doing it. Maybe this will work for you, or maybe you will want to adjust it to fit your family’s interests and schedule. There isn’t one way to homeschool, and there certainly isn’t one way to study birds. We are keeping it simple, working on one bird per week; if it seems like the kids are especially interested in a particular species, we may spend longer. We begin the week by introducing the species, in this case, mourning doves. I recommend beginning with a bird that will be easy for you to find in your local area, one you can walk outside and see. It is one thing to look at a bird in a nature guide or book, but the real magic lies in spotting it in the field and hearing its call.
Birding is a pastime that gets us outside in nature, moving through the forest or prairie, breathing fresh air and enjoying life.
Our first day is spent identifying the bird by sight and sound. How big is it? What shape is it? What color are its feathers? Does it have any unique patterns? Do the males and females of the species look similar? What does it sound like? We read books, look at pictures, listen to its calls, go outside to try to find it, and then finish by painting or drawing it as accurately as we can. The following days will include learning about its habitat, distribution, nesting, feeding and behaviors. We may practice writing its name, labeling a map of its home range or reading a story or poem about it. Our main goals are to be able to identify the bird by sight and sound and find it in the wild. If we know a little about the natural history of the species, all the better :)
We are starting simply, and then adding information as we see fit. Pretty much the way we do all our homeschooling. Introduce topics to the kids, and then follow their lead. Most likely they will have ideas and opinions on where to go next, what species they want to study and what they want to learn about it. Good...that is the goal!